Conceived in 1945 and cast in an edition of 7.
The reclining figure is one of the most constant themes in Moore’s sculptural output, stretching across almost his entire career and as such it is a form that goes through numerous transformations and variations but never wavering in its strength, power and appeal.
Whilst the reclining figures of the early 1930s are monumental in character, drawing on ancient and renaissance sources as varied as the Tolmec-Mayan Chacmool (Coll. Museo Nacional de Antropologia, Mexico) and Michelangelo’s Dawn and Night (Medici Chapel, Florence), Moore’s growing abstraction throughout the decade saw the sculptures evolve in ways that used the possibilities of the form and its inherent asymmetry. The gentle undulations of Reclining Figure 1934-5 (LH 155) combine the form into an almost fully abstracted carving, and by Reclining Figure 1937 (LH 178) this process has become almost complete, the sculpture taking on a surreal bone-like quality. However, as Moore began to carve through his sculptures and open up spaces and voids within, the ability to return to a more figurative yet abstracted form was realised. The magnificent Recumbent Figure 1938 (LH 191) originally carved for the terrace of Serge Chermayeff’s Sussex home, Bentley Wood, is a tour de force of poise and balance, and in other large scale carvings of the period Moore repeatedly explores the possibilities of the subject.
The war years forced a necessary hiatus into the sculptural side of Moore’s oeuvre, but as hostilities ended, so the artist was once more able to take up the theme. The present sculpture is one of the three maquettes for the monumental elmwood Reclining Figure (LH 263) that Moore completed in late 1946, and was immediately sold to his American dealer, Curt Valentin. The flowing lines of the sculpture clearly demonstrate how the artist was considering the transformation of the small, hand-sized maquette to the open grain and inherent structural strength of elm, a wood in which he carved some of his most important large reclining figures and which lent itself to an expansive treatment. Where it differed from his earlier reclining figures was in the incorporation of a large spherical form in the torso around which the shoulders curve protectively. It has been suggested that the genesis of this departure may be related to the impending birth of his daughter Mary and indeed the togetherness of the two elements would give credence to such a theory. However, were this true, Moore would have been using an existing idea to present this concept as the initial manifestation of this form, almost unchanged, first appears in a 1942 drawing, Reclining Figure and Pink Rocks (HMF 2065, Coll. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo).
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