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HENRY MOORE, O.M., C.H. (1898-1982)

Reclining Nude

HENRY MOORE, O.M., C.H. (1898-1982)
Reclining Nude
signed and dated 'Moore/80' (lower right)
charcoal and gouache on paper
10 x 13 7⁄8 in. (25.4 x 35.4 cm)
Executed in 1980.
with Berkeley Square Gallery, London.
with Osborne Samuel, London.
with Rex Irwin, Sydney.
with Caroline Wiseman Modern and Contemporary, London.
Acquired by the current owner from the above, December 2008.
A. Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore, Complete Drawings: 1977-1981, Vol. 5, London, 1994, pp. 144-45, no. AG 80.284, HMF 80 (247), illustrated.
M. Merrony (ed.), Mougins Museum of Classical Art, Mougins, 2011, p. 340, no. 52, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, The Classical Now, London, Somerset House, 2018, p. 1, illustrated.
Rome, Due Ci Gallery, Henry Moore: Opere su Carta, 1983, catalogue not traced.
Musée d'Art Classique de Mougins, 2011 - 2023 (Inv. no. MMoCA29MA).
London, Somerset House, The Classical Now, March - April 2018, exhibition not numbered.

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Lot Essay

Henry Moore’s reputation as the pre-eminent modern sculptor is grounded in the essential humanity of his works, regardless of their scale. Best known for his large bronzes, Moore regarded his draftmanship as an essential facet to his sculptural practice: ‘If you are going to train a sculptor to know about the human figure, make him do more drawing to begin with than modelling’ (H. Moore quoted in D. Alberge ‘Classical Modern Art’, in M. Merrony (Ed.), Mougins Museum of Classical Art, France, 2011, p. 340). Reclining Nude is a wonderful example of Moore’s later work as he shifted his practice from predominantly exploring abstraction to a return to figuration, embracing the human form in various prototypical circumstances.

Alberge describes Moore’s forms as ‘Mother Earth figures’, highlighting how unlike his predecessors of Degas and Rodin, Moore had little interest in depicting the human body in movement or erotic poses. Moore was interested in capturing the human essence and sought to simulate humanity through the melding of the rolling landscape with the fluid, organic curves of the human body. Moore comments, ‘Landscape has been for me one of the sources of my energy. It is concerned with the solid, immediate form of the human figure or animals… I find that all natural forms are a source of unending interest… The whole of nature is an endless demonstration of shape and form’ (the artist quoted in D. Mitchinson (ed.), Henry Moore Sculpture, Barcelona, 1981, p. 246).

Following this notion of the unending possibilities of shape and form, Moore regarded there to be three fundamental poses of the human form which could be tailored into infinite compositions: ‘One standing, the other is seated, and the third is lying down… If you like to carve the human figure in stone, as I do, the standing pose is no good. Stone is not so strong as bone, and the figure will break off at the ankle and topple over. The early Greeks solved this problem by draping the figure and covering the ankles… But with either the seated or the reclining figure one doesn’t have this worry. And between them are enough variations to occupy any sculptor for a lifetime… But of the three poses, the reclining figure gives most freedom compositionally and spatially’ (the artist quoted in. D. Alberge, Ibid., p. 341).

The subject of the reclining figure has been explored throughout the canon of art history, two key examples of antiquity being: The Sleeping Ariadne, a Roman Hadrianic copy of a Hellenistic sculpture of the Pergamene school of the 2nd century BC; as well as the reclining nude of Dionysus, of The Parthenon Sculptures, dated 438BC – 432BC, which Moore greatly admired throughout his career. Moore believed that the lineage of classical sculpture and the craftsmen of antiquity, could be traced through the continuously resurfacing and renegotiated subject of the ‘reclining figure’ - an example being, Antonio Canova’s nineteenth-century masterpiece, Maddalena Giacente (Recumbent Magdalene), 1819-1822.

Moore’s Reclining Nude marks the continuation of this tradition, dismantling and reinterpreting the reclining form to fashion a silhouette which is one with the land, a Mother Earth: 'His reclining female figures are in a sense nature goddesses. He perceives the natural world as a complex of metaphors for the image of woman. Reclining, she is like the lie of the land, and whether mountainous or deep-mined, geometrically withdrawn or biomorphically eloquent, she enfolds all created things’ (R. Melville, Foreword, in Exhibition catalogue, Henry Moore: Sculpture and drawings from the Arts Council collection, Art Council 1969, n.p.).

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