'I want to be quite free of having to find a 'reason' for doing the Reclining Figures, and freer still of having to find a 'meaning' for them. The vital thing for an artist is to have a subject that allows [you] to try out all kinds of formal ideas... in my case the reclining figure provides chances of that sort. The subject matter is given. It's settled for you, and you know it and like it, so that within it, within the subject that you've done a dozen times before, you are free to invent a completely new form-idea' (H. Moore, quoted in J. Russell, Henry Moore, London, 1968, p. 28).
The reclining female figure was Henry Moore's most enduring subject. Moore explained that his abiding attachment to this motif stemmed from the unparalleled formal freedom it allowed him. By 1975, the year the present sculpture was conceived, Moore's supreme mastery of the figure in repose was such that, as he made clear, 'there's no need any longer to search for a personal style: I find work comes naturally' (H. Moore quoted in A. Bowness (ed.), op. cit., London, 1983, p. 7). This fluency is patently evident in the rhythmic rise and fall of forms in Working Model for Reclining Figure: Prop which effortlessly combines the formal innovations explored by Moore over the course of his exceptionally productive career.
The present sculpture is the maquette from which Moore subsequently enlarged to a 'working model' size. A larger version based upon this model was conceived in 1982, a cast of which is in the collection of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Caracas. The elongated female figure of the present sculpture, propped up on one elbow, her twisting powerful chest pushing outwards and her knees upwards, is compositionally related to two other important reclining figures Moore sculpted at this time - Draped Reclining Figure (see lot 142) and Reclining Figure: Angles. The particular pose evokes that of the pre-Columbian Toltec-Mayan figure of Chacmool. This sculpture had made a great impression upon Moore when he saw it reproduced in a book and when he first encountered a plaster cast of the original stone carving in Paris at the Trocadéro in 1922. 'Its curious reclining posture attracted me,' Moore remarked of Chacmool, 'not lying on its side but on its back with its head twisted round' (H. Moore, quoted in A. Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot, 2002, p. 54).
The smooth hollow lower torso, characteristic of Moore's reclining figures, and sweeping curve of the figure's left arm creates a remarkable interplay of form and space. This interplay is further heightened by the strut or 'prop' supporting the raised arm, which divides the ovoid space between limb and torso into two discreet areas and which brings to mind Moore's more abstracted two-piece reclining sculptures. Working Model for Reclining Figure: Prop reconciles, to some extent, both Moore's naturalistic and more abstract approaches to figuration. Writing of Moore's post-1973 sculptures, Alan Bowness observed that 'the most obvious characteristic is a certain sense of consolidation - the drawing together of the threads of a long and various career' (A. Bowness, op. cit., 1983, p. 7).