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Henry Moore (1898-1986)
The Collection of Dorothy and Richard Sherwood
Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Three Seated Figures

Details
Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Three Seated Figures
signed and dated 'Moore 40' (lower right)
watercolor, colored wax crayons, colored pencils, pastel, pen and India ink and pencil on paper
11 x 15 in. (27.9 x 38.1 cm.)
Executed in 1940
Provenance
J.H. Reiseger, Kempston, Bedfordshire (by 1953).
Hanover Gallery, London (acquired from the above).
Acquired from the above by the late owners, circa 1958.
Literature
H. Read, ed., Henry Moore, Sculpture and Drawings, New York, 1944, vol. 1, pl. 165a (illustrated; with inverted dimensions and incomplete medium).
D. Sylvester, ed., Henry Moore, Sculpture and Drawings, 1921-1948, London, 1957, vol. 1, p. 224 (illustrated; with incomplete medium).
A. Garrould, ed., Henry Moore: Complete Drawings, 1940-1949, London, 2001, vol. 3, p. 29, no. AG 40.31 (illustrated).
Exhibited
London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Henry Moore: Figures in Space, Drawings, 1953, no. 38.
São Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna, Grã-Bretanha: Esposição de obras de Moore, Richards, Evans, Scott, Gear, Heron, 1953-1954, no. 55.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Henry Moore in Southern California, October – November 1973, p. 286, no. 107 (with incorrect medium).

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Jessica Fertig
Jessica Fertig Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

The insightful and compassionate strain of humanism that Henry Moore affirmed in his art is perhaps most profoundly apparent in his “imaginative” drawings, compositions he created not as exploratory or transformational ideas for sculpture, but to represent people in situations that reflect his observations and feelings about contemporary life. Three Seated Figures is a rare early and beautifully worked example. Social interaction—between a mother and her child, the members of a family, or among friends—typically provides the impetus for the figure compositions in Moore’s graphic work. Seated on benches, the three female figures in the present drawing face one another, engaged in conversation. One may infer from the date on the sheet—1940—the topic of their discussion: the catastrophe of war. 
Disaster was indeed imminent or had already befallen these three striking figures, the Three Graces in ancient mythology who presided over civilized pursuits during peacetime, now become the Three Fates, subject to terrible powers that exceeded even their own. On 7 September, huge fleets of German warplanes commenced an all-out aerial bombardment of London. The “Blitz” on the capital recurred nightly for the next two months, then less regularly until May 1941. Moore soon created his first Shelter Drawings that depict the legions of Londoners who crammed the Underground tubes, seeking safety from the onslaught above. His London studio, newly occupied, was flattened by a bomb in October. 
The primary model for Moore’s seated figures is the ancient Egyptian portrait statue, the esteemed personage posed on a block of stone; he particularly admired the chamberlain Inyotef, a limestone figure of the Twelfth Dynasty, circa 1950 BCE. “The whole figure has the stillness I particularly associate with the Egyptians,” Moore explained, “a stillness of waiting, not of death” (quoted in Henry Moore at the British Museum, New York, 1981, p. 35). Moore’s three powerful subjects balance the weighty classicism of antiquity with the twisting and exaggerated forms of modern surrealist expression. 
The heads of the three figures are expressively split and left gaping, like the upraised scream of the mother holding her dead child in Picasso’s anti-war icon, Guernica. Here Moore employed the novel technique he developed during the late 1930s, of washing watercolor around the figures drawn in white wax crayon. The color does not take to the wax, but instead pools and soaks into the surrounding paper surface to form a vaguely portentous, oneiric background. Inhabiting this timelessly mythic dimension, the three women contemplate the barbarism of war as it has beset humanity through the ages. The Sherwoods, who knew Moore personally, acquired Three Seated Figures after the war in the late 1950s.

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