The Family Groups are one of Moore's most important subjects and, with only one exception, were made during the brief period of 1944-48. Of the seventeen versions on the theme, fifteen are small maquettes varying in size from five to eight inches and two are of a larger scale.
The concept itself developed over several years, as Moore explains: 'The idea of the family group crystallised before the war. Henry Morris, the Director of Education for Cambridgeshire, asked me to do a sculpture for the Impington Village College, the first of the modern schools in England. It had been designed by Walter Gropius. As the College was going to be used for adult education as well, the idea of connecting parents and children came into my mind. I think that the first family group drawings and maquettes were done in 1935-6, although I didn't actually make the full-size sculpture until later' (Moore quoted in John Hedgecoe, A Monumental Vision, The Sculpture of Henry Moore, Collins and Brown, London, 1998, p. 163).
Although the project was never realised due to lack of funding, the artist carried on exploring this theme in numerous drawings, most of them made in bomb shelters in London during World War II. The theme represents the mood of the country following the war: a close knit group, morally upholding the re-birth of a nation following the ravages of the early 1940s. The series reflected both Moore's wish for peace and harmony in the post-war world and his expression of happiness prior to the birth of his daughter Mary. The artist said of this series: 'The family group ideas were all generated by drawings: and that was perhaps because the whole family group idea was so close to one as a person; we were just going to have our first child Mary, and it was an obsession' (Moore quoted in Julie Summers, Henry Moore: From the Inside Out, Munich, 1996).
Discussing this important series in the context of the artist's œuvre, Will Grohmann wrote: 'With the Family Group theme Moore regained his freedom since the commissions received were less restricting. He started working on these groups at about the same time as the Madonna. In the years 1944 to 1947 he produced a number of larger and smaller variations in stone, bronze and terracotta, differing considerably from one another, being both naturalistic and non-naturalistic, though never as abstract as the Reclining Figures. The theme does not hem him in, but demands a certain readiness to enter into the meaning of a community such as a family' (Will Grohmann, Henry Moore, London, 1960, p.141).
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