Henry Moore (1898-1986)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property from a European Private Collection
Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Two Women and Child

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Two Women and Child
signed 'Moore' (lower right)
gouache, watercolor, colored wax crayons, colored pencils, pen and India ink and pencil on paper
19 x 24 5/8 in. (48.4 x 62.5 cm.)
Executed in 1948
The Leicester Galleries, London (probably acquired from the artist).
Private collection, Great Britain.
The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), London (by 1972).
Fischer Fine Art, London.
Private collection, South Africa.
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London.
Private collection (acquired from the above, 1978)
Private collection (by descent from the above); sale, Sotheby's, London, 24 June 2015, lot 32.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
R. Melville, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings 1921-1969, London, 1970, no. 378 (illustrated).
A. Garrould, ed., Henry Moore: Complete Drawings, London, 2001, vol. 3, p. 284, no. AG 48.29 (illustrated in color, pl. XXXII).
London, The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), Small Bronzes and Drawings by Henry Moore, November-December 1972, p. 110, no. 54 (illustrated, p. 111).
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Jessica Fertig
Jessica Fertig

Lot Essay

Executed in 1948, this exquisitely rendered work, rich in both color and texture, presents one of the leading themes of Henry Moore’s career: the mother and child. Depicted with a serene sense of calm and ease, two women appear seated, looking toward each other as if engaged in silent dialogue, one cradling a baby in her arms, the other holding a bowl in her lap, perhaps filled with water to wash or feed the child. Moore has rendered both of these female figures with a series of undulating lines, the method of volumetric, linear construction that had by this time become his signature mode of rendering the human figure in two-dimensional form. Dating from a moment when drawing had become one of Moore’s chief preoccupations and an autonomous part of his oeuvre, Two Women and Child is one of a series of works in which the artist captured a host of simple and intimate scenes of domestic life. From women conversing or bathing children, to family groups and figures spinning wool or reading, this series of drawings transcends the specificity of their execution to become timeless evocations of humanity.
From the very earliest days of his career, the subject of the mother and child, rich in art historical precedents, had served as a central interest for the artist, allowing him to reflect not only upon the iconographic meaning of this motif, but also permitting him to explore the formal qualities offered by this grouping of figures. “The ‘Mother and child’ idea is one of my two or three obsessions, one of my inexhaustible subjects," Moore stated. "This may have something to do with the fact that the ‘Madonna and Child’ was so important in the art of the past and that one loves the old masters and has learned so much from them… It is a rich subject, both humanly and compositionally, that I will always go on using it” (quoted in A. Wilkinson, Writings and Conversations, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2002, p. 213). Central both to his sculpture as well as his work on paper, Moore recalled, “I discovered, when drawing, I could turn every little scribble, blot or smudge into a Mother and Child… So that I was conditioned, as it were, to see it in everything. I suppose it could be explained as a ‘Mother’ complex” (Moore, quoted in ibid., p. 213).
While this motif undoubtedly calls to mind the classical art of the past, at the time that Moore executed the present work, this theme was particularly pertinent both to the artist on a personal level, and more widely. Britain had begun the so-called "baby boom," a period both during and following the Second World War during which birth rates soared due to the conditions of war and the jubilant relief and adulation following its end. In addition, Moore’s own daughter Mary, his first child, had been born in 1946. As a result, the artist immersed himself in the themes of the family and maternity; as John Russell has written, “the image of the family took on a new, leaping, unpredictable intensity” (J. Russell, quoted in R. Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, London, p. 197).
Both in his sculpture and drawing, these mother and child depictions were imbued with a new warmth and tenderness. Since the artist had begun his renowned Shelter Drawings–works which depict huddled groups of Londoners taking shelter in the Underground stations during the intense bombing of the Blitz that began in 1941–Moore’s work had taken on a heightened sense of humanity. Profoundly affected by these poignant visions of mankind during some of the darkest days of the conflict, Moore would constantly return to images of familial unity and maternity in his work, exploring both the formal possibilities and the expressive potential of these universal and timeless themes for the rest of his career.
Indeed, the influence of the Shelter Drawings can also be seen in the formal construction and handling of Two Women and Child. Here, Moore has utilized what he called his "two-way sectional line method,” which he had been developing over the previous years. Indeed, Alan Wilkinson regards this technique as reaching its culmination in works such as Two Women and Child and others executed in 1948 (see A. Wilkinson, The Drawings of Henry Moore, London, 1977, p. 43). This method saw the artist create forms with a network of curving as well as straight lines that both defined the figure and projected a powerful sense of volume and weight. In addition, these webs of lines also served to depict the draperies that Moore had become so interested in at this time. In the present work, both figures appear to be adorned in drapery-like attires, these lines emphasizing the softly undulating forms of both of the figures.
Like the linear striations of Picasso’s early cubist works or the expressive, gestural linearity of Giacometti’s drawings, Moore's sectional method of describing form imparts a sense of monumentality to his subjects. Yet, his linear technique also imparts a calm, magisterial stasis, endowing his figures with the same classical grandeur as in his sculpture. With this technique, Moore was able to imbue his subjects, engaged in the present work in an everyday, domestic activity, with a sense of solemnity and a profound significance, achieving the same sense of transcendent timelessness in his two-dimensional evocations of the human form as in his three-dimensional sculpture.

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