‘There are three fundamental poses of the human figure. One is standing, the other is seated, and the third is lying down… But of all the three poses, the reclining figure gives me the most freedom compositionally and spatially.’ Henry Moore
The subject of the reclining figure is probably the single most iconic image of Henry Moore’s œuvre. Initially inspired by Mexican sculpture, this theme recurs throughout the artist’s career, ranging from organic forms to near-abstract, geometric ones. Discussing this work, however, Norbert Lynton has noted that 'the theme of the Reclining Mother and Child is surprisingly rare in Moore's work. [...] Moore became a grandfather in 1977. This Mother and Child sculpture is one of the most comforting of them all: here, more than ever, he gave us "a big form protecting a little form", his definition of the theme' (N. Lynton in Henry Moore: The Human Dimension (exhibition catalogue), Benois Museum, Petrodvorets & Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, 1991, p. 136).
Alongside the emotional connotations this theme held for Moore, this combination of two connected forms also provided him with a range of formal and spatial possibilities to explore in the medium of sculpture. As Gail Gelburd observed: ‘The reclining figure has always had references to the land for Moore, but a reclining figure with a child is rare within his oeuvre. He experimented with the position of the baby, placing it first on and then against the mother’s thigh, but it seemed unprotected until he finally moved it into the space near the mother’s breast. The figure retains a relationship to the land, but the addition of the child suggests that land has given birth to a new form. She is the stable form which gives life to children and to the earth. Her undulating forms melt into the land, conveying a sense of timelessness’ (G. Gelburd in David Mitchinson (ed.), Celebrating Moore, London, 1998, p. 343).
This sculpture is the working model for the monumental bronze Draped Reclining Mother and Baby executed in 1983 (Alan Bowness (ed.), op. cit., no. 822), casts of which are in the Hoam Museum of Art in Seoul and Biltmore Commerce Center in Phoenix, Arizona.