HENRY MOORE (1898-1986)
HENRY MOORE (1898-1986)
HENRY MOORE (1898-1986)
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HENRY MOORE (1898-1986)
6 More
HENRY MOORE (1898-1986)

Reclining Figure No. 2

HENRY MOORE (1898-1986)
Reclining Figure No. 2
bronze with brown and green patina
Length: 36 in. (91.5 cm.)
Conceived and cast in 1953, in an edition of seven plus one artist's cast
Joel & Celeste Starrels, Chicago.
The Art Institute of Chicago, a gift from the above in 1960; sale, Christie’s, New York, 6 November 2007, lot 3.
Private collection, Europe; sale, Christie’s, London, 23 June 2015, lot 17.
Acquavella Galleries Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
R. Melville, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings, 1921-1969, London, 1970, nos. 470-472, p. 357 (another cast illustrated).
D. Mitchinson ed., Henry Moore: Sculpture, London, 1981, no. 226, pp. 115 & 311 (another cast illustrated p. 115).
A. Bowness ed., Henry Moore, vol. II, Complete Sculpture, 1949-1954, London, 1986, no. 329, p. 43 (other cast illustrated p. 43 & pls. 95 & 96).
Chicago, The Arts Club of Chicago, Henry Moore, December 1959 - January 1960, no. 21 (illustrated).
Chicago, University of Chicago, Chicago’s Homage to Henry Moore, December 1967, no. 44 (illustrated).

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Claudia Schürch
Claudia Schürch Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Throughout his long career, Henry Moore retained an enduring fascination with the reclining figure—the artist himself described it as ‘an absolute obsession’ within his oeuvre. Providing him with an inexhaustible range of formal and expressive possibilities, this familiar subject served as a site for endless experimentation and innovation for Moore, appearing in multiple different guises and forms as his visual style evolved. Created in 1953, Reclining Figure No. 2 belongs to a series of six closely-related sculptures that Moore produced during the early 1950s, each of which depicted a figure caught in a moment of apparent repose, their head and upper torso propped up by the right elbow. Reclining Figure No. 2 is one of an edition of seven, of which other casts reside in The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, the Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, and the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Manitoba, Canada. The plaster is held in the Henry Moore Foundation.

While such reclining figures had appeared frequently within Moore’s work since the 1920s, the subject took on a new dimension following the Second World War, as the artist was irrevocably altered by the powerful experience of making his Shelter Drawings. These richly detailed works on paper depicted intimate views of life in the unofficial shelters of London during the first few months of the Blitz, as people desperately sought shelter in the capital’s underground transport system to escape the aerial bombing hitting the city. Having discovered this extraordinary environment one night on his way home from dinner, Moore returned to the Underground shelters two or three times a week at the height of the Blitz, quietly observing people as they waited for the night’s bombardment to end. There, people of all ages and backgrounds lay side by side, packed into the tunnels or gathered together on station platforms. Moore captured a broad range of human emotions in his numerous sketches and studies of these figures – though some chatted amicably with their neighbours or played card games to pass the time, others shifted nervously as the din of the bombing rained overhead, their bodies tense with worry, a sharp contrast to those who managed to catch a few hours of fitful sleep and were lost in their dreams.

The memory of these reclining figures continued to play on Moore’s imagination in the years that followed, and his sculptures through the late 1940s and early 1950s began to exhibit a new sense of nuance and character as he played with subtle variations in pose and framing to imbue their bodies with a particular sense of energy and emotion. As Moore explained, it was the inherent familiarity of the human body that allowed him the freedom to pursue such extended studies: ‘There are fundamental ideas of shape or form that are natural to humans,’ he mused. ‘These are not philosophical ideas I am dealing with. It’s the way we are made as people. It is comparing yourself to what you are making. The human figure is fundamentally the same’ (quoted in A.E. Elsen, ‘Henry Moore’s Reflections on Sculpture,’ Art Journal, vol. 26, no. 4, Summer 1967, p. 354).

In Reclining Figure No. 2, the figure’s hips are projected forward, the space within the torso contorted and carved away to create a void between the plinth and the body. Similarly, cavities are formed between the taut right-angled elbow, the legs and stiffly bent knees. This determined asymmetry, difficult to sustain in a seemingly static pose, gives an organic energy and dynamism to the present figure, the exaggerated, undulating twist of their torso and hips creating a palpable sense of tension, force and vitality, as if they are prepared to spring up and away at any moment.

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