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 nude woman, reclining.
"[Moore] once said that there are three fundamental poses of the human figure, standing, seated and lying down; that the reclining pose gives the most freedom, compositionally and spatially; that it is free and stable at the same time; that it has repose: 'Knees and breasts are mountains... As you move round it, the two parts overlap or they open up and there is space between. Sculpture is like a journey. You have a different view as you return'" (R. Melville, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Writings, 1921-1969, New York, 1971, p. 261).
Reclining Figure is imbued with the awe-inspiring presence of an earth mother. Massive yet weightless, its forms mimic those of a rugged landscape. As Moore commented, "Landscape has been for me one of the sources of my energy. It is generally thought that no sculptor is much interested in landscape, but is only 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" (quoted in Mitchinson, op. cit., 1981, p. 246).
The smooth twist of the figure's torso, jutting breasts and mountainous legs underscore what Roger Fry, the critic whom Moore most admired, said:
"...the greatest art seems to concern itself most with the universal aspects of natural form, to be the least pre-occupied with particulars" (R. Fry, "Retrospect," Vision and Design, p. 195).