Henry Moore's reputation as the pre-eminent modern sculptor is grounded in the essential humanity of his works, regardless of their scale. His evolution as a modernist followed familiar pathways of experimentation: he first found inspiration in the antique, then allied himself with Surrealism, and then embraced "pure" abstraction. Like other artists before and after him, however, he found abstraction to have its limitations and he returned in his later work to the human form in various prototypical circumstances, one of which is a reclining mother and child.
Moore's interest in the theme of the mother and child was both personal and universal. It related to his own happy childhood and adult family life, as well as to the ancient sculpture he admired. As he stated, "From very early on I had an obsession with the mother and child theme. It has been a universal theme from the beginning of time and some of the earliest sculptures we've found from the Neolithic Age are of a mother and child. I discovered, when drawing, I could turn every little scribble, blot or smudge into a Mother and Child. So that I was conditioned, as it were, to see it in everything. I suppose it could be explained as a 'Mother' complex" (H. Moore and J. Hedgecoe, Henry Moore, New York, 1968, p. 61).
In Draped Reclining Mother and Baby, Moore shuns one-sided, simplistic concepts of motherhood for a more complex, ambiguous image. As Alan Bowness has written of this mature period, "Moore's sculptures have indeed become increasingly concerned with human relationships. It has always been a major preoccupation, from the earliest Mother and Child sculpture, but it seems to me that what we are offered in the late works is a paradigm of the human relationship, with the figures groping, touching, embracing, coupling, even merging with each other" (A. Bowness, Henry Moore, Sculpture and Drawings, vol. 4, London, 1977, p. 17).
In this later half of his career, Moore concentrated on the large-scaled sculptures he preferred. This large size alters the viewer's relationship with the work, giving it a sense of depth not always apparent in smaller pieces. In addition, Moore intended these pieces to be displayed outside, emphasizing the connection between nature and sculptural forms. The biomorphic elements of this work reflect the shapes of the outdoors surrounding it, while the open composition integrates nature into the work itself.
Ultimately, the complexity of Draped Reclining Mother and Baby attests to Moore's artistic talent. He is able to combine numerous elements--vitality, sensuousness, anxiety, serenity--into a cohesive whole, offering a view of a mother and child as a universal symbol of human relationships. The composition itself, the smooth, flowing lines juxtaposed with the gaping holes, reinforces the complex set of emotions it contains.
The present work was cast in an edition of nine plus one, as confirmed by The Henry Moore Foundation. Other casts of this composition are to be found in the Ho-Am Art Museum, Seoul; Biltmore Commerce Center, Phoenix; Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka City, Japan; Tokushima Modern Art Museum, Tokushima, Japan; and The Henry Moore Foundation, Hertfordshire, England.