Mother and Child with Apple is one of the most elegant and compelling of Moore's interpretations of the theme and epitomises the artist's masterful approach to the depiction of the human figure. The spatial relationship between the mother and her child captured within the richly textured bronze draws its immediate appeal from the balance of playfulness and monumentality. In 1943 Moore was invited to carve a Madonna and Child for St. Matthew's Church at Northampton (fig. 1). In discussing the commission the artist wrote: 'Although I was very interested I wasn't sure whether I could do it, or whether I wanted to do it. One knows that religion has been the inspiration of most of Europe's greatest painting and sculpture, and the church in the past has encouraged and employed the greatest artists; but the tradition of religious art seems to have got lost completely in the present day'. He goes on to further express his passion for the Mother and Child motif: 'There are two particular motives or subjects which I constantly used in my sculpture in the last twenty years; they are the Reclining Figure idea and the Mother and Child idea. (Perhaps of the two the Mother and Child has been the more fundamental obsession)' (quoted in David Mitchinson (ed.), op. cit., p. 90). Will Grohmann writes about the motif of the Mother and Child 'The theme crops up once more in its original form in 1956 and 1957, in Mother and Child with Apple [the present model] and Mother and Child in front of an open wall. Both compositions are intimate: that with the apple combines the most contradictory elements into a superior unity, the primitive with the refinements of Donatello' (W. Grohmann, op. cit., p. 143).
Discussing the major works produced in 1956-57 Giulio Carlo Argan writes: 'The dilemma of the classical and anticlassical, of form and distortion, is applied to the problem of space. Monumentality becomes gigantism, an almost grotesque exaggeration: if the woman was to stand, her head would touch the clouds [...]. Space flows over the figure like a stream over its bed' (G. C. Argan, op.cit). The style and scale of Mother and Child with Apple's conception relates directly to the magnitude of the subject matter. The essential importance of maternity within the history of art has been monumentalised by Moore's sculptural exploration. As Gail Gelburd commented: 'The theme of mother and child, then, not only refers to the paternal relationships but is about fertility, maternity and growth - universal ideas [...]. The mother and child motif goes beyond the image to a primal motif based on the theme of life and birth, for Moore it means creativity. The art is reminiscent of some of the earliest primitive images due to its conceptual base. Moore's work is an attempt to get at the essential nature and to shape it from within [...]. He breathes life and vitality into the inanimate object. The mother and child sculptures are not only a symbol of maternity but of creativity itself' (G. Gelburd in Mother and Child: The Art of Henry Moore (exhibition catalogue), Hofstra Museum, Hofstra University, New York, 1987, p. 27).
The Study Gallery in Poole, England and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem both have casts of the Mother and Child with Apple in their collections.
Fig. 1, Henry Moore, Madonna and Child, 1943-44, Hornton stone, St. Matthew's Church, Northampton
Fig. 2, Henry Moore's in his studio with a cast of Mother and Child with Apple. Photograph by John Hedgecoe
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