Lot 4
  • 4

Henry Moore, O.M., C.H.

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
125,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Henry Moore, O.M., C.H.
  • Seated Figure: Armless
  • bronze


M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, where acquired by the family of the present owner, circa 1960


Robert Melville, Henry Moore; Sculpture and Drawings 1921-1969, Thames & Hudson, London, 1970, illustrated pl.500 & 501 (another cast);
Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore Sculpture and Drawings Sculpture 1955-64, Vol. 3, Lund Humphries, London, 1986, cat. no.398, illustrated p.25, pl.18 &19 (another cast);
Alan Wilkinson, Henry Moore Remembered, The Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Key Porter Books, Toronto, 1988, cat.no.118, illustrated p.168 (plaster version);
John Hedgecoe, A Monumental Vision, The Sculpture of Henry Moore, Collins & Brown, London, 1998, cat. no.364, illustrated p.221 (another cast).

Catalogue Note

During the 1950s the figure of the solitary, seated female – distinct from the Artist’s standing or reclining figures and seated family groups – became a persistent subject of Moore’s sculpture. He created numerous pieces, from small maquettes to monumental bronzes, variously presenting a female figure, seated on steps, or on benches, sometimes in front of walls. Seated Figure: Armless is one of these works. Upright and frontal in pose the figure has a majestic stability and weight that conveys an internalised sense of calm contemplation. The figure’s static attitude is carefully offset by subtle asymmetry. The head tilts gently to the left and the right shoulder drops to create soft movement.

Moore’s preference for bulky, weighty female figures, exemplified by the present sculpture, can be traced back to the Artist’s life drawings from the 1920s. During this time, Moore made numerous drawings of large figures and copied similarly fleshy nudes from paintings by Peter Paul Rubens. As a student in the 1920s, Moore had also admired the immense women painted by Paul Cézanne, describing them as: ‘not young girls but that wide, broad, mature woman. Matronly.’ (Henry Moore quoted in Huw Wheldon (ed.), Monitor: An Anthology, London, 1962, pp.21–2). Moore later recalled: ‘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’ (Henry Moore quoted in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore. My Ideas, Inspiration and Life as an Artist, London, 1986, pp.150–1).

The might and maturity of Cézanne’s women may have reminded Moore of his own mother. He suggested to the critic David Sylvester in 1963 that his memory of massaging his mother’s back may have informed how he modelled another of his sculptures from the mid-1950s. He recalled: ‘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. My mother’s back meant a lot to me’ (Henry Moore quoted ibid, p.329).

Critics such as Erich Neumann have proposed that the maternal aspects of Moore’s large women related to those of the archetypal ‘Great Mother’, a symbol of nourishment, shelter and security. The reference to this timeless motif is strengthened in the current sculpture through its references to antiquity. Moore had visited Greece for the first time in 1952 and the trip was inspirational. The present bronze is imbued with a strong sense of the Classical. Its absent limbs, rough surface and elegant drapery recall the remains of ancient sculptures, degraded and broken during the passage of time. Yet modernity is intelligently integrated by Moore. The head is abstracted and reduced to two curved plains which meet to form a ridge that can be read as a nose. The eyes are simply gauged holes. Certainly the sculpture remains, entirely and absolutely, of the time. In fact, a central tenet of Neumann’s thesis was that Moore’s turn to the archetypal ‘Mother Earth’ was not simply a matter of personal choice, but one manifestation of a widespread social tendency in the post-war period which sought to disassociate itself from the patriarchal structures that had led to war (Erich Neumann, The Archetypal World of Henry Moore, London, 1959, p.32).