Quentin Laurens, the holder of the Droit Moral, has kindly confirmed that this work is registered in his archives.
With sensuous, undulating curves and a voluptuous fullness of form, La Lune encapsulates Henri Laurens’s late sculptural style. Conceived in 1946, the present work dates from a period when Laurens was working almost exclusively with the subject of the female figure. Following his cubist period, in the 1920s Laurens gradually ceased depicting the human form as an angular and geometric arrangement of forms and instead took a more organic and biomorphic approach, creating lyrical nudes infused with a luxuriant sensuality.
The kneeling pose of La Lune, with her arms raised above her has a wealth of artistic associations and can be seen in numerous depictions of women from antiquity all the way through to the twentieth century. In looking to the past for inspiration, Laurens was not alone. After the First World War, the ‘return to order’ dominated the avant-garde. In contrast to the individualistic and radical styles of the pre-war period, following the war, artists increasingly sought to imbue their art with a sense of tradition, harmony and clarity. The revival of the aesthetics, themes and subjects of classicism emerged in the work of a wide range of artists: from Picasso’s monumental Neo-Classical nudes to Léger’s mechanically inspired women in classical poses.
As a result of the prevailing classicism of the era, Laurens became interested in the form of the figure as a whole, instead of as a composite of different parts. In La Lune, the rounded volumes of the figure reflect Laurens’s desire to create a sculptural fullness which instilled a sense of calm stability and monumentality to his work; the artist stated, ‘I aspire to ripeness of form. I should like to succeed in making it so full, so juicy, that nothing could be added’ (H. Laurens, ‘A Statement’, in Henri Laurens, exh. cat., London, 1971, p. 19). This ripening wholeness of forms is encapsulated in La Lune: the serpentine curves of the figure’s bent knee lead the eye around her torso and raised arms, making this a sculpture that is truly ‘in the round’.
Laurens did not give his sculptures titles until after he had completed them, becoming inspired by the visual associations of the undulating forms of his figures. Many of his works of this time, such as La Lune, L’automne and Le matin, have titles relating to nature, a reflection of the biomorphic and overtly organic shapes of the female figures. Laurens explained, ‘When I begin a sculpture, I only have a vague idea of what I want to do. For instance, I have the idea of a woman or of something related to the sea. Before being a representation of whatever it may be, my sculpture is a plastic act and, more precisely, a series of plastic events, products of my imagination, answers to the demands of the making… I provide a title right at the end’ (Laurens, ibid.). In the present work, the circular form created by the figure’s raised arms evokes the rounded shape of the full moon, while its symbolic associations – as a powerful symbol of femininity – are a reflection of the overt feeling of sensuousness that the sculpture exudes.