Although Moore had made sculptures consisting of more than one piece in the 1930s, Two Piece Reclining Figure No. 1 is the first large-scale work in which the torso is completely separate from the remainder of the figure. According to the artist’s own account, it was while working on this sculpture that he ‘realised what an advantage a separate two-piece composition could have in relating figures to landscape. Knees and breasts are mountains. Once these two parts become separated you don’t expect it to be a naturalistic figure; therefore, you can more justifiably make it like a landscape or a rock. If it is a single figure, you can guess what it’s going to be like. If it is in two pieces, there’s a bigger surprise, you have more unexpected views; therefore the special advantage over painting – of having the possibility of many different views – is more fully exploited’ (quoted in C. Lake, Atlantic Monthly, vol. 209, no. 1, Boston, January 1962, p. 44).
In splitting a reclining figure into two separate forms, Moore was able to explore multiple relationships, most importantly that between the male and the female figure, and that between man and environment. As the artist explained: ‘My “Two-Piece Reclining Figure Number One” of 1959 is a mixture of rock form and mountains combined with the human figure. I didn’t reason it out like this, but I think that this is the explanation. Breaking it in half made it a less obvious, a less realistic figure. In the maquette the leg and the head end were joined but when I came to enlarge the sculpture there was a stage when the junction between the leg and head didn’t seem necessary. Then I realised that dividing the figure into two parts made many more three-dimensional variations than if it had just been a monolithic piece. This was something I’d wanted to do in sculpture for a long time. It led on to several other two-piece sculptures and eventually to a three-piece one’ (quoted in J. Hedgecoe & H. Moore, op. cit., 1968, p. 338).
In 1959 Moore also executed a smaller version of this work, Maquette for Two Piece Reclining Figure No. 1 (A. Bowness (ed.), op. cit., no. 457a). The present work, which was acquired by Mr. Embiricos directly from Moore, belongs to an edition of six bronzes cast by the Hermann Noack Foundry in Berlin. Other casts of the monumental version of this work belong to City Art Museum, St. Louis; Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg; Hakone Open Air Museum and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo.
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