When speaking about a subject he depicted many times throughout his artistic career, Henry Moore stated, "From the very beginning the reclining figure has been my main theme. The first one I made was around 1924, and probably more than half of my sculptures since then have been reclining figures" (quoted in John Hedgecoe, ed., Henry Moore
, London, 1968, p. 151). Originally inspired by both Cycladic and Pre-Columbian sculpture, Moore embraced "primitivism" and abstraction when sculpting reclining figures. The present work displays his shift towards English romanticism, which he explored for a brief period after World War II. This clothed figure depicts Moore’s attempt to achieve depth and solidity. While most of his reclining figures were previously nudes, Moore has given solidity to the present work by carving clothing it in a form-fitting dress.
The present work is one of two maquettes for the sculpture
which stands on top of Dartington Hall as a memorial to Christopher Martin, its first Arts Administrator. Before his death in 1944, Martin had been responsible for running a major inquiry into how the arts were organized in England and Wales. Moore was an active member of the study’s Visual Arts Group and counted Martin among his closest friends, making the artist a natural choice for this commission to celebrate Martin's life and work.
Moore “was able to invest the Hornton stone carving with a heartfelt elegiac strain. The recumbent woman broods gravely in the grounds where [Christopher] Martin must have enjoyed walking and savouring the seductive prospect of the countryside beyond. But there is nothing unduly melancholy about this ample figure. Stoical as well as sad, she seems reconciled to the inevitability of death... Intact, harmonious and entirely unruffled, she presides over her surroundings with a mellowness which honours the softly rolling Devonshire landscape. Her upturned leg complementing the gentle swell of the terrain behind, the figure seems ideally attuned to the setting she occupies" (Richard Cork in Henry Moore (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy, London, 1988, p. 19).