Lot 17
  • 17

Henry Moore

4,000,000 - 6,000,000 USD
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  • Henry Moore
  • Seated Woman
  • Bronze
  • Height: 62 7/8 in.
  • 159.7 cm


The Leicester Galleries (Ernest Brown & Phillip, Ltd.), London

Acquired from the above in January 1964 


Will Grohmann, The Art of Henry Moore, London, 1960, p. 230, illustration of another cast pls. 179 & 180

Herbert Read & Alan Bowness, ed., Henry Moore: Sculptures and Drawings, Vol. 3, 1955-1965, London, 1965, no. 435, illustrations of another cast p. 37 & pls. 68 & 69

Herbert Read, Henry Moore, New York, 1966, no. 208, illustration of another cast p. 279

John Hedgecoe & Henry Moore, Henry Moore, New York, 1968, illustration of another cast p. 529

Henry MooreSculptures (exhibition catalogue), Galerie Beyeler Basel, 1970, illustration of another cast on the cover 

Guilio Carlo Argan, Henry Moore, Milan, 1971, illustration of another cast in color pl. 145

Robert Melville, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings 1921-1969, New York, 1971, illustrations of another cast pls. 535-47

Henry J. Seldis, Henry Moore in America, New York, 1973, mentioned p. 273

Ionel Jianou, Henry Moore, New York, 1974, no. 414, mentioned p. 82

Abram Lerner et al., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, New York, 1974, no. 638, illustration of another cast p. 725

Herbert Christian Merillat, Modern Sculpture: The New Old Masters, New York, 1974, illustrations of another cast pp. 40 & 91

Barry Hyams, Hirshhorn Medici from Brooklyn, New York, 1979, illustration of another cast p. 196

Josep Iglesias del Marquet, Henry Moore y el Inquietante Infinito, Barcelona, 1979, illustration of another cast in color pl. 51

Franco Russoli & David Mitchinson, eds., Henry Moore Sculpture, London, 1981, no. 307, illustration of another cast p. 147

Alan Bowness, ed., Henry Moore, Sculpture 1955-64, London, 1986, vol. 3, p. 36, no. 435, illustration of another cast p. 37

David Finn, One Man’s Henry Moore, Redding Ridge, 1993, illustrated p. 3

Catalogue Note

The human figure was Henry Moore’s abiding passion and the primary subject of his art. Seated Woman, conceived in 1957, is one of his most important works and was personally selected by the artist for inclusion in David Finn's collection. It belongs to a series of large sculptures of women that Moore created in the 1950s that occupy a key position in his oeuvre. The monumentality of this seated figure marked a bold new approach in his work that was developed from the 1950s onwards, and resulted in seated forms temporarily taking precedence over his standing and reclining figures for the rest of the decade.

The seated figure as a theme emerged as part of Moore’s commission to make a sculpture to sit outside UNESCO’s headquarters. The project presented Moore with a particular sculptural conundrum that he initially tried to solve using his usual configurations of family groups or solo female figures. While the eventual solution was found in the highly abstracted form of a reclining female figure, numerous maquettes show that he had seriously considered using a seated figure such as the present work. In 1960 Will Grohmann identified two distinct types of seated figures in Moore’s work that operated at opposite ends of the spectrum. One conveyed an internalized sense of calm contemplation, while the other was more active, as though they represented: “the moment before rising, jumping up, going into action.” Grohmann determined that “the relaxed figures tend towards the classical, and the tense ones toward the demonic… the demonic figures ... are continuations of the destroyed and destroying themes that followed the end of the 1930s and the beginning of the 1950s, except that this time the conception is not based on hollow forms and an open framework, but on fully three-dimensional shapes that have been subjected to distortions that exercise a shock effect” (W. Grohmann, The Art of Henry Moore, London 1960, p. 229).

Moore’s female figures often took the role of a mother, whether in a religious context as the Madonna with child, or in a more generalized way. Though not shown with a child, Seated Woman has been identified as a symbol of fertility. In 1958 Moore wrote to Alan Wurtzburger, about the progress of a few recent works, including photographs of them in the letter. Of the present work he wrote that he had enclosed “photographs of the ‘Seated Woman,’ now in bronze. I think at one time I called her 'Pregnant Woman,' but I am leaving that out of its title now” (letter to A. Wurtzburger, March 4, 1958, Henry Moore Foundation Archive). The change of title at the time did not prevent Moore from later confirming that “Seated Woman is pregnant. The fullness in her pelvis and stomach is all to her right. I don’t remember that I consciously did it this way, but I remember Irina telling me, before Mary was born, that sometimes she could feel that the baby was on one side and sometimes on the other” (H. Moore quoted in ibid. p. 329).

The theme of motherhood was one that informed much of Moore’s work, and was inextricably linked to his own childhood and subsequent parenthood. Discussing the present work, Moore recalled a memory of his own mother: “Seated Woman, particularly her back view, kept reminding me of my mother, whose back I used to rub as a boy when she was suffering from rheumatism. She had a strong, solid figure, and I remember, as I massaged her with some embarrassment, the sensation it gave me going across her shoulder blades and then down and across the backbone. I had the sense of an expanse of flatness yet within it a hard projection of bone” (H. Moore quoted in ibid, p. 329).

Originally produced in plaster, and subsequently cast in bronze, the surface of the present cast bears the marks of its creation. Moore’s process was to build layer upon layer of plaster upon a pre-constructed armature, which was then manipulated with spatulas and palette knives as each layer dried. The form was then further enhanced with chisels, files, sandpaper and even cheesegraters, giving the finished work a highly varied and richly textured surface. The attention Moore paid to the actual process of making sculpture is wonderfully apparent and well preserved throughout the surface of the bronze cast.

The plaster casts also served to allow Moore to reintroduce successful elements into subsequent works. In David Finn’s account of his friendship with Henry Moore he recalled acquiring the present work in the early 1960s, and how: “Years later, my daughter Amy said she recognised a resemblance between the body of Seated Woman and Henry’s Falling Warrior, which she saw on the grounds of Clare College, Cambridge, in England. When I mentioned that to Henry he smiled sheepishly and said she was right. He had used the same torso for both but made it horizontal in the latter. What had been the movement of a baby in Seated Woman became the writhing of a wounded soldier in Falling Warrior” (D. Finn, op.cit., p. 25). This re-appropriation is typical of Moore’s practice, and reveals the intriguing connections between his works.

The influence of Cézanne on Moore’s work is particularly apparent in the present sculpture. Reflecting on his lifelong passion for Cézanne’s work and its importance to him, Moore wrote with particular reference to Les Grandes Baigneuses: “Cézanne’s figures had a monumentality about them that I liked. In his Bathers, the figures were very sculptural in the sense of being big blocks and not a lot of surface detail about them. They are indeed monumental but this doesn’t mean fat. It is difficult to explain this difference but you can recognize a kind of strength. This is a quality which you see only if you are sensitive to it. It’s to do with the full realisation of the three-dimensional form; colour change comes into that too, but not so importantly as human perspective. Bathers is an emotional painting but not in a sentimental way. Cézanne had an enormous influence on everyone in that period, there was a change in attitudes to art. People found him disturbing because they didn’t like their existing ideas being challenged and overturned. Cézanne was probably the key figure in my lifetime” (H. Moore quoted in A. Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore, Writings and Conversations, Lund Humphries, 2002, pp. 150–51). In 1959 Moore managed to acquire for himself one of Cézanne’s paintings of bathers, later declaring: "It's the only picture I ever wanted to own. It's ... the joy of my life. I saw it [in 1959] in an exhibition and was stunned by it. I didn't sleep for two or three nights trying to decide whether to [buy it].... To me it's marvellous. Monumental." (H. Moore quoted on Monitor, first broadcast in 1960).

The present cast was made in 1960, and other casts from this edition are now in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Hakone Open-Air Museum and Nelson Atkins Museum of Fine Art in Kansas City. In 1978 Moore gave the plaster model to Tate, London.