Lot 14
  • 14

HENRY MOORE | Women Winding Wool

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Henry Moore
  • Women Winding Wool
  • signed Moore and dated 47. (lower right)
  • watercolour wash, gouache, pencil, wax crayon and coloured crayon on paper
  • 39 by 48.6cm.
  • 15 3/8 by 19 1/8 in.
  • Executed in 1947.


The Leicester Galleries, London Wilfrid A. Evill, London (acquired from the above in August 1948)

Honor Frost, London (a bequest from the above in 1963. Sold: Sotheby‚Äôs, London, The Evill/Frost Collection I, 15th June 2011, lot 4)

Richard Green, London (purchased at the above sale)

Acquired from the above by the present owner in October 2011


London, The Leicester Galleries, Artists of Fame & Promise, Part II, 1948, no. 140 London, The Home of Wilfrid A. Evill, Contemporary Art Society, Pictures, Drawings, Water Colours and Sculpture, 1961, no. 18

Brighton, Brighton Art Gallery, The Wilfrid Evill Memorial Exhibition, 1965, no. 112 (titled Women Winding Wool - The Fates)


Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore, Complete Drawings, Aldershot, 2001, vol. 3, no. HMF 2394a (AG 47.7), illustrated p. 255

Catalogue Note

The present work sees Moore draw on a number of themes within his own work, both painted and sculpted, that had surfaced through the earlier part of the 1940s. The large-scale presentation of relatively naturalistic figures has a resonance with both the 'shelter' drawings and the 'figures in a setting' drawings that followed them, and the influence of the 'family group' sculptures in their domesticity and relationships between the figures can also be traced. Over all these, though, sits the increasing sense of the classical that imbued much of Moore's work during these years. The subject itself is simple; two women, draped in apparently heavy materials, sit almost facing each other on small bench-like stools. One holds her hands out for the other to wind a bright yellow woollen thread into a ball. Both seem relatively engaged by this activity, although the figure on the left is perhaps more inclined to reverie. The board floor suggests they are placed in an interior, although the space indicates little more than walls behind them and whose placement gives a feeling of containment, perhaps almost confinement. The apparent domesticity of the subject matter is very much in keeping with Moore's drawings of 1945-46, where images of mothers bathing children, figures reading or knitting or simply sitting together are frequent. However, for most of these the everyday feeling is plain, and thus suggests a link to the 'family group' sculptures of the same period. Activities such as reading and knitting also feature in the 'shelter' drawings, and like his treatment of the subjects in the 1940-42 period, Moore seems throughout the decade to be able to differentiate within each group between the drawings which appear to offer a simple rendition of a subject as opposed to those which take on a more monumental quality.

Contemporary observers noted a growing element of classical feeling in Moore's work at this time, 'the fateful air of antique tragedy' (Kenneth Clark, 'Henry Moore: A Note on his Drawings', Buchholz Gallery, New York, 1943), and indeed his own taste towards Greek tragedy was to be amply displayed in the illustrations he produced for the published version of Edward Sackville-West's play The Rescue, based on Homer's Odyssey. Like T.S. Eliot, whose work Moore very much admired, his figures seem balanced between the real world and another darker and larger plane. For The Rescue Moore produced several images of Penelope and Eurynome at the loom, each day's work being carefully unpicked at night to delay the completion of the weaving, and of course the Greek imagery of the Moirae, The Fates, spinning out the destiny of mankind, was a powerful one. Within the context of the unfolding of the post-war political map and the changes and developments of society in those years, a subject like this seems replete with such intimations. Indeed, Moore returned to this same theme in 1948, culminating in The Three Fates (AG 48.27, Private Collection), a direct presentation of Lachesis, Clotho and Atropos holding the fragile thread of life.