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Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986)

Mother and Child: Gothic

Henry Moore, O.M., C.H. (1898-1986)
Mother and Child: Gothic
signed and numbered 'Moore 3/9' (at the base)
bronze with a brown and green patina
7½ in. (19 cm.) high
Conceived in 1975.
Acquired by the present owner circa 1980.
G. Levine, With Henry Moore, The Artist at Work, London, 1978, p. 139, another cast illustrated.
D. Mitchinson (ed.), Henry Moore Sculpture, with Comments by the Artist, London, 1981, p. 265, no. 550, another cast illustrated.
A. Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore, Sculpture and Drawings: 1974-80, Vol. 5, London, 1983, pp. 26-27, no. 684, pl. 63, another cast illustrated.
J. Hedgecoe, Henry Moore, A Monumental Vision, Cologne, 2005, pp. 236-237, no. 591, another cast illustrated.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Alice Murray
Alice Murray

Lot Essay

'The 'Mother and Child' is one of my two or three obsessions, one of my inexhaustible subjects … 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. But the subject itself is eternal and unending, with so many sculptural possibilities in it - a small form in relation to a big form, the big form protecting the small one, and so on. It is such a rich subject, both humanly and compositionally, that I will always go on using it' (H. Moore, quoted in A. Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Berkeley, 2002, p. 213).

Moore conceived Mother and Child: Gothic at the end of a long line of distinguished sculptures on the subject of maternity, his most widely admired signature theme. Having already conceived more than twenty sculptures on the Mother and Child theme, Moore received a commission in 1943 to carve a Madonna and Child for St. Matthew’s Church in Northampton (LH 226). This project gave Moore cause to reflect upon the long tradition of western religious art, and to focus on the ways in which a Madonna and Child differs from a purely secular Mother and Child. 'The Madonna and Child should have an austerity and a nobility', Moore wrote, 'and some touch of grandeur (even hieratic aloofness) which is missing in the everyday Mother and Child' (H. Moore quoted in D. Mitchinson (ed.), Henry Moore Sculpture, with Comments by the Artist, London, 1981, p. 90).

The universal and monumental aspect of this stone carving, completed in 1944, with the Madonna seated in serene repose as she supports the infant Christ in her lap, became the paradigm for many of the Mother and Child sculptures of later years, with the result that the religious aspect of the subject was largely subsumed within a secular context. This transformation is especially apparent in the present work Mother and Child: Gothic; Moore's old master sources remain evident, even while having been radically restated in the syntax of modernist abstraction. One may interpret the significance of the subject in various ways, according it either a sacred or secular meaning, while recognising that it exists in an eternal, mythic dimension with a comforting humanist message. One can also see here, the influence of the sculptures of Ancient Egyptian and Pre-Columbian cultures, which Moore venerated, who worshipped mother-child imagery, viewing them as powerful symbols of rejuvenation and fertility.

Indeed, the Mother and Child was one of the most common and evolving artistic themes and cannot be defined by any one religion, continent or century. As was the practice with Moore, he took inspiration from many sources, both religious and secular. What was of the utmost importance to the artist was that his work was instilled with a human quality that could speak to people on a personal level, while also acting as a universal symbol that could transcend the boundaries of religion and culture.

Mother and Child: Gothic was conceived at the beginning of a decade which saw Moore create more images of the Mother and Child than in any other period of his career. In contrast to other sculptures of this subject, in which Moore often created a restive or even boisterous infant with some recognisable naturalistic characteristics, he has in this later work cast the shape of the child as an elemental, virtually abstract form, as if to represent it in an early stage of development, that of a foetus having been newly born into the world as an infant.

The Mother and Child theme is closely linked to Moore’s inner and outer-form motif, where a smaller form is protected by the larger, while the outer piece bends to cradle or envelope the inner. Henry Moore explains that ‘the infant, having left the protective body of its mother, is utterly exposed and helpless, a condition which has prompted the mother to bend, twist and lean’, inclining her head ‘in concerned regard for the vulnerability and needs of her new-born offspring’ (H. Moore, quoted in A. Wilkinson (ed.), op. cit., 2002, p. 214). This is expressed beautifully in Mother and Child: Gothic. The mother holds her arm at a right angle, this uncharacteristically harsh line emphasising the role of mother as the powerful protector, while the child appears enveloped in the tender yet forceful hold of mother. The piece is kinetic, it holds the possibility of movement, the mother and child both reaching, and as the child is unbalanced the mother is even more protective.

For Moore, the idea of the Mother and Child occupies a place at very heart of creation, in both the physical, natural world, and within the creative arts of humankind. 'Moore continuously found new ways of exploring the theme so that the imagery could take on meaning beyond the aesthetics of its form', Gelburd has explained. 'The development of the mother and child imagery reveals that Moore’s involvement in this theme reaches beyond maternity to an inquiry into birth and creativity. The theme of the mother and child, the mother giving birth, the child struggling to emerge from the maternal womb, is like the stone giving birth to the form, the form struggling to emerge from the block of stone' (Exhibition catalogue, Mother and Child: The Art of Henry Moore, Hempstead, New York, Hofstra University, 1987, p. 37). Moore’s obsessive preoccupation with the theme of the Mother and Child lies at the very heart of the meaning and practice of his art. 'I was conditioned, as it were to see [the Mother and Child] in everything', Moore declared. 'I suppose it could be explained as a 'Mother' complex' (H. Moore, quoted in A. Wilkinson (ed.), op. cit., 2002, p. 213).

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