HENRY MOORE, O.M., C.H.Two Standing Figures
- Henry Moore
- Two Standing Figures
- signed and dated 40; also signed, inscribed and dated 1940 on the reverse
- pencil, wax crayon, watercolour, pen and ink and wash on paper
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, where acquired by the family of the present owner, June 1960
Kenneth Clark, Henry Moore Drawings, Thames and Hudson, London, 1974, illustrated pl.121;
Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore Complete Drawings 1940-49, Vol. 3, The Henry Moore Foundation in Association with Lund Humphries, Aldershot, 2001, cat. no.AG 40.49, illustrated, p.33.
(Kenneth Clark, Henry Moore Drawings, Thames and Hudson, London, 1974, p.114).
Drawing has always remained a fundamentally important part of Moore’s work. As a consummate and innovative draughtsman, Moore used his drawings, especially during the war years when he could not sculpt, to study the structure of objects and investigate the nature of their forms, charting various possibilities and investigating new shapes. As Moore commented: ‘Drawing is the expression and the explanation of the shape of a solid object … an attempt to understand the full three dimensionality of the human figure, to learn about the object one is drawing, and to present it on the flat surface of the paper’ (Henry Moore, quoted in Alan Wilkinson, The Drawings of Henry Moore, 1977, p.12). As such, many of his drawings were preliminary to sculptures, used as ‘a means of generating ideas for sculptures, tapping oneself for the initial idea; and as a way of sorting out ideas and developing them’ (Henry Moore, ‘The Sculptor Speaks’, The Listener, 18th August 1937).
Two Standing Figures, 1940, is an early drawing exploring the relationship between the internal and external form in the upright sculptures it depicts. Moore’s application of wax crayon with wash, which results in a weighty, tactile texture reminiscent of weathered organic surfaces is characteristic of an artist whose sculptural eye is sensitively trained to the effects of light and shadow across a surface. These ‘hollow forms’ are at once both abstract and figurative – the vertical hollow shafts have huge apertures revealing an interior bone-like form which seems to suggest an internal biological mechanism. The relationship between interior and exterior forms and how to ‘get one form to stay alive inside another’ had preoccupied Moore since the 1930s. His drawings throughout and beyond the war years would continue to show a preoccupation with the concept of opening up sculpture and only after many years of careful deliberation on paper would this theme be fully realised in sculptural form in 1951 with a series of radical hollow-figure sculptures variously titled ‘Upright Internal/External Forms’ (see lot 9).
Despite their use to Moore as a means of generating ideas, he passionately believed that a sculptor’s drawings should, through the suggestion of background and evocation of atmosphere, be more than mere diagrammatic studies and that they should be treated as important works in themselves. In Two Standing Figures Moore deploys his distinctive earthy palette and heavy strokes to delineate the forms. Moore emphasises the figurative nature of the hollow forms, presenting them in a group and placing them within an empty interior set against a high brick wall with tiny cell-like windows. The forms appear to converse with each other, one tilting towards the other, taking on human characteristics. Kenneth Clark remarked on the particular effect of the standing figure drawings: ‘They achieve a remarkable reality, so that, when they walk about in pairs, we feel that they are conversing on the way to market. Moore seems to have created a credible alternative to the human race, as if millions of years ago, evolution had taken a different course. The strange fact is that, although these figures were invented in 1940, they did not appear in sculpture until 1951’ (Kenneth Clark, Henry Moore Drawings, Thames and Hudson, London, 1974, p.114).