Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Rocking Chair No. 1

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Rocking Chair No. 1
stamped with foundry mark 'C. VALSUANI CIRE PERDUE’ (on the underside)
bronze with brown patina
Height: 12 ½ in. (31.8 cm.)
Conceived in 1950
Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York.
Mary Clark Rockefeller, New York (acquired from the above, circa 1962).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
A. Bowness, ed., Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings: Sculpture 1949-54, London, 1965, vol. 2, p. 28, no. 274 (another cast illustrated; another cast illustrated again, pl. 14).
R. Melville, Henry Moore, Sculpture and Drawings, 1921-1969, London, 1970, p. 354, no. 398 (another cast illustrated).
P. Anbinder, ed., The Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection: Masterpieces of Modern Art, New York, 1981, p. 144 (illustrated in color).

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Jessica Fertig
Jessica Fertig

Lot Essay

The casting in 1948-1949 of the life-size Family Group, for the Barclay School in Stevenage, marked the culmination of a project that Moore had dreamed of completing since the late 1930s (Lund Humphries, no. 269). At the same time he completed in stone the Madonna and Child for St. Peter’s Church in Claydon (LH, no. 270). He was not finished, however, with the family themein 1950 he modeled four sculptures in a new mother and child configuration, the Rocking Chairs. In three of these works a seated mother playfully lifts her child high in the air (Nos. 1 [offered here], 3, and 4; LH, nos. 274, 276 and 277), and in the other, she balances a standing toddler on her knees (No. 2; LH, no. 275).
“The rocking chair sculptures were done for my daughter Mary," Moore explained, "as toys which actually rock" (quoted in J. Hedgecoe and H. Moore, Henry Moore, New York, 1968, p. 178). Mary was born in 1946, the year after Moore completed the small terra-cotta family groups. Henry and Irina Moore had been married sixteen years when she arrived; the sculptor was forty-seven, his wife thirty-nine. Mary was their only child. "She was in every sense a precious baby," Roger Berthoud has written. "Henry was from the first an active and doting father, and played a full part in helping to look after his beloved daughter" (The Life of Henry Moore, New York, 1987, p. 197). Mary was four when Moore created the Rocking Chairs for her, happily reminiscing about the time when his little girl was learning to walk.
Consistent with their toy-like character, the first three Rocking Chairs are each about 12 in. (30.5 cm.) high, the fourth, subtitled Miniature (based on No. 3), is just under half the size of the others. These sculptures are Moore's only kinetic works; he intended them to be handled and rocked. "I discovered while doing them," Moore recalled, "that the speed of the rocking chair depended on the curvature of the base and the disposition of the weights and balances of the sculpture, so each of them rocks at a different speed” (op. cit., 1968, p. 178). In 1952 Moore created a fifth work related to this series, Mother and Child on Ladderback Rocking Chair (LH, no. 312), in which he have the figures a knobbier, surrealist appearance.
Rocking Chair No. 1 is in its simplicity the most expressly toy-like of the group. As in Nos. 3 and 4, the mother is seated on two chair legsshe is both figure and chair combined into oneonly No. 2 realistically incorporates a regular chair. “[The Rocking Chairs] are enchanting impromptus, the offspring of a lighter muse,” Will Grohmann wrote. “One is inclined to suppose that family life underwent a happy release of tension through his young daughter Mary, forgetting that at the same period the frightful ‘Helmet’ series came into being... As with Mozart, tragedy is next door to comedy...jubilation is all the more genuine when behind it stands the totality of life with all its unresolved conflicts” (The Art of Henry Moore, London, 1960, pp. 142-143).

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