charcoal, wax and coloured crayon, pastel, watercolour, gouache and chalk
Executed circa 1951, the present work is listed as HMF2704a.
'From the very beginning the reclining figure has been my main theme' (Moore quoted in Henry Moore at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, exh.cat., Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, May - September 2004, p.67).
It is not surprising that Moore chose the reclining figure as the subject for arguably his most important public commission in Britain, a sculpture for the Festival of Britain on London's South Bank in 1951. As well as marking the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition, the Festival of Britain was specifically organised to celebrate the progress and recovery of Post-War Britain and Moore's Reclining Figure: Festival (1951, LH293) was given a prominent position near the main entrance of the South Bank site. The present work is an important drawing relating to developments for this commission and the half-moon shaped head, hollowed torso and angular contours defining the figure's elbows in the present work provide clear indications of the artist's ideas for his final piece.
The build-up of texture and shadow defining the reclining figure in the present work also signals the growing emphasis on surface form that became a new concern for Moore during the development of Reclining Figure: Festival. The prominent lines highlighting the curves and contours of the final sculpture mark a new departure for the artist and in his working models for the commission, he experimented using string to create impressions to the surface (see Working Model of Reclining Figure: Festival (1950, LH292)).
The present work is also critical in defining yet another new direction for Moore that was to become one of his principal themes in the 1950s; the investigation of internal as well as external form. The inner structure contained within the reclining figure in the present work provides the genesis for innovative works such as Working Model for Reclining Figure: Internal/External Form (1951, LH298) and Working Model for Upright Internal/External Form (1951, LH295). He later recalled that, 'the idea of one form inside another form may owe some of its incipient beginnings to my interest at one stage when I discovered armour. I spent many hours in the Wallace Collection, in London, looking at armour. Now armour is an outside shell like the shell of a snail which is there to protect the more vulnerable forms inside... (Moore in conversation with David Mitchinson, 1980, ibid., p.71).
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