Lot 21
  • 21

HENRY MOORE, O.M., C.H. | Rocking Chair No.3

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Moore
  • Rocking Chair No.3
  • plaster with shellac finish


Private Collection, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1990


Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore, Complete Sculpture, Sculpture 1949-54, Vol.2, Lund Humphries, London, 1986, cat. no.276, p.28 (illustration of the present work in a previous state).

Catalogue Note

The 1950s was to be a productive and intense period of creativity for Henry Moore. Settled into his home and studio at Perry Green in Hertfordshire (to which he had moved a decade earlier to escape the threat of bombing in London) and becoming ever more recognised and sought-after it was also a decade that saw the full realisation of the potential of plaster within his work. The importance of Moore’s plasters has undergone a serious re-evaluation in recent years, aided in large part by the 2011 Royal Academy exhibition and accompanying catalogue written by Anita Feldman. Within the text Feldman writes that these were works created not just as a means to an end, but are intricately worked and finished sculptures in their own rights: ‘these plasters have been historically undervalued by both artist and art historian alike, yet they are the originals, shaped and textured with assorted chisels, metal files, dental instruments, cheese graters, even humble nutmeg graters and toothbrushes’ (Anita Feldman and Malcolm Woodward, Henry Moore Plasters, exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2011, p.19). As Moore himself wrote in 1973: ‘These are not plaster casts; they are plaster originals… they are the actual works that one has done with one’s own hands.’ (Henry Moore, quoted ibid, p.11).

An artist that had historically favoured direct carving in stone and wood Moore came to fully realise and appreciate the advantages that plaster offered in the 1950s, making the Rocking Chair plasters some of the earliest fully realised plaster sculptures. The material had the great advantage of being able to be both carved and modelled, and then once set the surface could be worked (just as it could with stone and wood) and later coloured. Instead of the fresh, bright white that casting typically resulted in, Moore coloured his plasters with toned shellac made from walnut oil that was so reminiscent of his fascination with found natural objects including bones and pebbles.

Made in the early 1950s, originally intended as ‘toys’ for his young daughter Mary, the Rocking Chair series (see lot 17) capture Moore’s acute skill as a sculptor, made even more discernible through this, the original plaster for the third of the four rocking chairs. Rocking Chair No.3 showcases Moore’s working of the plaster surface, carefully scored and texture, but also the process that casting in bronze involved. Cast in sections, the present work shows the mother figure armless, with the baby cast separately. With these rocking chairs Moore paid close attention to the speed at which the sculptures rock and this would have been worked out through this, the original plaster from which the series of six were later cast. The present work offers a fascinating insight into Moore’s working practise and also displays the care and attention that he paid to his plasters, which rarely appear on the open market.