- Henry Moore
Acquired by Philippe Dotremont, Brussels, circa 1950, subsequent to the exhibition in Bern, 1950 but before the publication of the Tate Gallery exhibition catalogue in 1951
Carlo Ponti & Sophia Loren
Acquired from the above
London, Mayor Gallery, Unit 1, April 1934, no.30 as Composition (Corsehill stone);
London, New Burlington Galleries, International Surrealist Exhibition, 1936;
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Henry Moore, 1946;
Bern, Kunsthalle Bern, Henry Moore, 1950, no.23, illustrated in the catalogue;
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Henry Moore: Stone and Wood Carvings, 1961, no.16;
London, Marlborough Fine Art, Art in Britain 1930-40 centred around Axis Circle Unit One, March - April 1965, no.83, illustrated in the catalogue;
London, The Tate Gallery, Henry Moore, July - September 1968, no.29, illustrated in the catalogue;
Florence, Forte Belvedere, Moore e Firenze, 1972, no.19;
London, Royal Academy, Henry Moore, September - December 1988, no.19, illustrated in the catalogue;
London, Tate Modern, Surrealism: Desire Unbound, 2001-2002, no.39, with tour to Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York;
Saint-Paul de Vence, Fondation Maeght, Henry Moore - Retrospective, 2002, no.39.
Sculpture and Drawings by Henry Moore, exh.cat., Tate Gallery, London, arranged by the Arts Council of Great Britain on the occasion of The Festival of Britain, 1951, fig.22;
Herbert Read, Henry Moore, Munich, 1967, illustrated pl.88;
Robert Melville (ed.), Henry Moore Carvings, Marlborough Fine Art, London, 1967, illustrated;
Robert Melville, Henry Moore. Sculpture and Drawings 1921-1969, New York, 1970, no.91, illustrated;
Elda Fezzi, Henry Moore, 1977, illustrated p.11;
Charles Harrison (ed.), Unit 1, Portsmouth, May 1978, p.37, illustrated;
Franco Russoli & David Mitchinson, Henry Moore, Escutlura, Barcelona, 1981, no.84, illustrated p.59;
Alex Robertson et al (ed.), Surrealism in Britain in the Thirties, Leeds, 1986, illustrated pp.210-211;
Susan Compton, Henry Moore, London, 1988, illustrated p.64;
David Sylvester (ed.) and Herbert Read, Henry Moore. Complete Sculpture, 1921-48, vol. I, London, 1990, no.138, illustrated p.84;
Cercle d'Art (ed.), Moore 1898-1986, Paris, 1996, illustrated pl.28;
Henry Moore: Sculpting the 20th Century, exh. cat., Dallas Museum of Art, 2001, illustrated in photographs pp.67, 213.
Throughout the 1930s, Moore's creative energy was largely focused on stone carvings, using a number of different types of stone. The elegantly carved Figure displays a high degree of abstraction, while at the same time containing elements of a female figure. The play of light and shadow on the protruding and hollow shapes amplifies the dynamic of the form, while the lines inherent to the stone add character to its smooth, beautifully carved surface. Although the sculpture itself was not included in the 1951 Arts Council exhibition held at the Tate Gallery, Sculpture and Drawings by Henry Moore, the organisers evidently felt it was so important that they included and illustrated it in their catalogue as one of two examples of the culmination of Moore's style in the early 1930s. Writing about the present sculpture ten years later in 1961, John Russell commented: "In this [work] the swelling is the subject, to a degree not paralleled elsewhere, and all other themes and incidents are subordinate to it. There is no trace, in this figure, of the violated block; all accords with the mysterious, even, powerful and yet perfectly contained swelling of the stone, which seems, however irrationally, to have been modelled outwards from within" (John Russell in Henry Moore: Stone and Wood Carvings (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 16).
This treatment of form bears testament to the way Moore aligned himself with the contemporary artistic currents on the European continent, and with the Surrealist artists in particular. As Robert Melville observed: "During the period from 1931 to the beginning of the war, Moore carved a superb series of organic abstractions. They are as 'shape-conscious' as the sculpture of Brancusi and Arp, but they are more persistently penetrated by human associations, and they reveal his connections with Surrealism. He belongs to the Surrealist generation" (Robert Melville, op. cit., p. 12). Indeed, the pivotal Surrealist exhibition held in London in 1936 included three of Moore's drawings and four sculptures, among them the present work (see fig. 2).
Moore found an important source of inspiration for his early carvings in the 'primitive' sculpture he saw at the British Museum, particularly in Mexican art. In 1941 he wrote that "of works from the Americas, Mexican art was exceptionally well represented in the [British] Museum. Mexican sculpture [...] seemed to me true and right. Its 'stoniness' by which I mean its truth to material, its tremendous power without loss of sensitiveness, its astonishing variety and fertility of form-invention and its approach to a full three-dimensional conception of form, make it unsurpassed in my opinion by any other period of stone sculpture." Moore pursued this 'truthfulness' to materials in his own work, always seeking to explore the nature of the stone, and in the present work, its terracotta-like colour accentuates the link between earth and nature on one hand, and the maternal, feminine character of the work on the other.