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

Reclining figures

Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Reclining figures
signed and dated 'Moore 43' (lower left); and with various inscriptions by the artist
pencil, charcoal, wax crayons, pen and ink and wash on paper
18 x 25 1/2 in. (45.6 x 64.7 cm.)
Executed in 1943
Private collection, Chicago, by whom acquired before 1950, and thence by descent to the present owner.
A. Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore, Complete Drawings, vol. 3, 1940-49, Aldershot, 2001, no. AG 43.107 HMF 2156, p. 196 (illustrated).
Stanford, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Centre for Visual Arts, Stanford University, on loan, March 2000.
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Jessica Brook
Jessica Brook

Lot Essay

The depiction of six reclining biomorphic sculptural forms in Reclining figures illustrates Henry Moore's statement that his drawings were executed 'as a means of generating ideas for sculpture, tapping oneself for the initial idea; and as a way of sorting out ideas and developing them' (H. Moore, 'The Sculptor Speaks', The Listener, 18 August 1937, quoted in D. Sylvester, ed., Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings, 1921-1948, 4 vols, London, 1957, vol. I, p. xxxv). A consummate draughtsman, Moore's drawings are also important pictorial works in their own right, exemplifying his belief that a sculptor's drawings should, through the suggestion of background and the evocation of atmosphere, be more than mere diagrammatic studies.

In the present drawing, each of Moore's six ideas for sculpture is isolated in a seemingly shadowy subterranean setting, recalling the 'mysterious fascination' that 'caves in hillsides and cliffs' held for him (Moore, quoted in ibid., p. xxxiv). Moore's interest in underground landscapes previously found expression in both his seminal 'Shelter Drawings' of 1941, which movingly depict figures taking refuge in the London Underground during the war, and in his 'Coal-Mine Drawings' of the same year. In Reclining figures, the figures are presented as an elemental part of their surrounding environment which, almost womb-like, or perhaps catacomb-like, protects and envelops them.

This integration suggests an analogy between his sculpture and organic matter and reflects the inspiration he derived from natural objects such as rocks, bones, trees and plants. These natural materials could also, of course, be the material for the final sculpture, as reflected in the annotations by the artist of each of the six sculptural forms in Reclining figures. Moore was not just considering the three dimensionality of potential sculptures in these drawings, but also their materials. The figure in the upper left corner is annotated ‘Tense bone-like form (wood)’, whereas the figure at the lower right is annotated ‘square wide through – forced projections & recessions (stone)’.

Moore's sophisticated and subtle use of colour in the present lot also points to an aesthetic based on nature. Indeed, the year after this drawing was executed, one commentator noted Moore's 'appetite for the colours of nature, the lichen on the grey rock, the coloured textured of weather-worn stone' (G. Grigson, Henry Moore, London, 1944, pp. 15-16). The natural is further alluded to through Moore's use of a wide variety of media, which gives the drawing a rich surface texture.

As Moore once conceded, the reclining female figure was an 'absolute obsession' for him (Moore, quoted in C. Lichtenstern, Henry Moore. Work -Theory - Impact, London, 2008, p. 95). He believed that of the 'three fundamental poses of the human of the human figure' - standing, seated and reclining - it was the latter which offered him the most compositional and spatial freedoms (Moore, quoted in A. Wikinson, Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot, 2002, p. 218). This 'obsession' with the reclining figure is superbly illustrated in the twisting and contorted sculptural forms so adroitly explored in Reclining figures.

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