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Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Henry Moore (1898-1986)
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Henry Moore (1898-1986)
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THE COLLECTION OF EILEEN AND I.M. PEI
Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Working Model for Mirror Knife Edge

Details
Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Working Model for Mirror Knife Edge
signed 'Moore' (on the top of the base); stamped with foundry mark 'H NOACK BERLIN' (on the back of the base)
bronze with brown and gold patina
Height: 18 7/8 in. (48 cm.)
Length: 26 7/8 in. (68.1 cm.)
Conceived and cast 1976
Provenance
Literature
F. Russoli and D. Mitchinson, Henry Moore, Sculpture: With Comments by the Artist, London, 1981, p. 283, no. 587 (plaster version illustrated in color in situ in the artist's studio and monumental version illustrated).
A. Bowness, ed., Henry Moore: Complete Sculpture, 1974-1980, London, 1983, vol. 5, p. 34, no. 713 (another cast illustrated; another cast illustrated again, pls. 110-111).

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Lot Essay

Working Model for Mirror Knife Edge was conceived in 1976 as the basis for a public sculpture, commissioned by celebrated architect I.M. Pei to be installed outside the extension to the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. As Henry Moore commented in remembering the project: “[Pei] came to my studio with photographs, plans and scale drawings of the building and suggestions of where he thought a sculpture could be placed. This was at the entrance to the new building. We both agreed that whatever sculpture it was, it would have to be on a very big scale, otherwise it would only look like somebody going in and out of the gallery. After some consideration, we both thought that an existing sculpture, the Knife Edge Two Piece, would be the right idea if made big enough, but we both agreed that if it were the other way around, that is, a mirror image of itself, it would suit better the entrance, because people could go through it in the gallery, whereas the other way they would be running into the wall. I thought it was a good experiment for me to have to do a sculpture as a mirror image. This was done and I think successfully" (quoted, in Henry Moore: Heads, Figures and Ideas, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts de Valenciennes, 2002, p. 73).
The original sculpture from which the mirror image for the present work was derived, as Moore describes, is Knife Edge, Two Piece, commenced in 1959 and one of his first explorations to adopt the bipartite structure. This work would be produced in an edition of ten working models, examples of which are in the Tate Gallery, London, the Gemeente Museum, Den Haag and Kunsthaus Zürich, and four monumental casts, which now reside in prominent locations such as on College Green in Westminster, London and Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver. Moore created this initial form, and those that followed, from inspiration that nature so often brought to him: a found object in the shape of a piece of bone dug from his garden. As Moore later explained: "There are many structural and sculptural principles to be learnt from bones, e.g. that in spite of their lightness they have great strength. Some bones, such as the breastbone of birds, have the lightweight fineness of a knife-edge” (quoted in R. Melville, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings, 1921-1969, London, 1970, pp. 261-262).
A rare and dynamic cast, not only for its sinuous, structured curves, its elegant balance of volume and its poetic relationship to the earth, but for the inventive and miraculous success of its inversion, Working Model for Mirror Knife Edge was produced in a small edition of only two casts, one residing with the National Gallery, where the monumental version now stands, the other, in the collection of I.M. Pei, presented here for the first time.

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