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 continued to manipulate this subject, and in the early 1960s he became fascinated with the possibilities of separating the elements of a reclining figure. Three Piece Reclining Figure: Draped demonstrates that even into his seventies, Moore was as inventive as ever.
Much of the fascination with Moore's work from this period stems from its formal ambiguities, as Moore himself stated, "Sculpture should always at first sight have some obscurities, and further meanings. People should want to go on looking and thinking; it should never tell all about itself immediately" (quoted in J. Hedgecoe, ed., Henry Moore, London, 1968, p. 83).
Moore commented on the genesis of separating the elements in his later Reclining Figure series:
I did the first one in two pieces almost without intending to. But after I had done it, then the second one became a conscious idea... Once these two parts become separated you don't expect it to be a naturalistic figure; therefore you can justifiably make it look like a landscape or a rock. If it's a single figure you can guess what it's going to be like. If it's in two pieces, there's a bigger surprise, you have more unexpected views; therefore the special advantage over painting--of having the possibility of many different views--is more fully explored...
Sculpture is like a journey. You have a different view as you return. The three-dimesional view is full of surprises in a way that a two-dimensional world could never be (quoted in C. Lake, "Henry Moore's World", Atlantic Monthly, January 1962).
The present work was cast in an edition of seven plus one, as confirmed by The Henry Moore Foundation. The complete list of casts in the edition and their present locations is as follows:
1/6 City of Gavle, Sweden
2/6 Louisiana Museum of Art, Humlebaek
3/6 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston
4/7 The present sculpture
5/7 Museum of Contemporary Art, Tehran
6/7 Private collection, United States
7/7 Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio
0/7 The Henry Moore Foundation, Much Hadham