Lot 14
  • 14

HENRY MOORE, O.M., C.H. | Family Group

1,300,000 - 1,800,000 GBP
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  • Henry Moore
  • Family Group
  • bronze
  • height: 24.5cm.; 9¾in.
  • Conceived in 1945 and cast by 1947, the present work is from the edition of 9.


Acquired directly from the Artist by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1947
De-accessioned, whereby acquired by Jeffrey H. Loria, New York, 1980
Acquired from the above by a Japanese Private Collection


New York, Museum of Modern Art, Henry Moore, 17th December – 16th March 1947 (this cast), with tour to Chicago and San Francisco;
New York, Architectural League of New York, Modern Sculpture for Architecture, 11th December – 2nd January 1948 (this cast);
New York, Museum of Modern Art, New Acquisitions, 13th January – 21st March 1948 (this cast);
Venice, British Pavilion, XXIV Venice Biennale, 29th May – 30th October 1948 (another cast), with tour to Milan;
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts from the Museum Collection, 24th August – 27th December 1948 (this cast);
New Jersey, Princeton University Art Museum, Contemporary Sculptures and Painters, 5th January – 16th January 1949 (this cast);
Paris, Musée National D’Art Moderne, Henry Moore Sculpture and Drawings 1923-1948, 19th November – 31st December 1949 (another cast), with tour to Brussels, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, Berne and Athens;
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Painting, Sculpture and Graphic Arts from the Museum Collection, 14th February – 20th November 1950 (this cast);
London, Tate, Sculpture and Drawings by Henry Moore, 2nd May – 29th July 1951 (another cast);
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Good Design, 21st November – 28th January 1951 (this cast);
British West Indies, Contemporary British Artists, 1st January – 1st February 1952 (another cast), with tour to Malta and France;
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Recent Acquisitions, 13th February – 22nd April 1952 (this cast);
Macon, Musée Municipal, Artistes Anglais Contemporains, 10th May – 12th July 1952 (another cast);
Hanover, Kestner-Gesellschaft, Henry Moore, 5th July - 2nd August 1953 (another cast), with tour to Stuttgart and Frankfurt;
Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Sculpture of the Twentieth Century, 10th October – 7th December 1952 (this cast), with tour to Chicago and New York; 
New York, Munson Williams Proctor Institute, The Figure Today, American and European Sculpture, 8th January – 29th January 1956 (this cast);
New York, Rochester Memorial Art Gallery, The Figure Today, American and European Sculpture, 3rd – 24th February 1956 (this cast);
New York, Syracuse University, The School of Art, The Figure in Contemporary Sculpture, 1st – 28th March 1956 (this cast);
New York, National Broadcasting Company, Today, 9th December 1958 (this cast);
Sofia, Sofia City Art Gallery, Henry Moore: An Exhibition of Photographs, Reproductions, With Some Original Bronzes, 7th - 19th April 1959 (another cast), with tour to Beirut, Budapest, Kuala Lumpur, Peshawar, Oslo, Drammen, Moss, Ardenal, Asker, Trondheim, Notodden, Eskilstuna, Linkoping, Odense, Kolding, Esbjerg and Aarhus;
Essen, Folkwang Museum, Henry Moore, 16th July – 14th August 1960, cat. no.11, illustrated (another cast), with tour to Zurich;
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Paintings Sculpture and Graphic Arts from the Museum Collection, 26th November – 8th September 1963 (this cast);
New York, Museum of Modern Art, From the Museum Collections: Family Portraits, 27th May – 7th February 1965 (this cast);
London, Tate, Henry Moore, July – September 1968, cat. no.68, illustrated p.173 (another cast);
Florence, Forte di Belvedere, Henry Moore, 20th May – 30th September 1972, cat. no.61, illustrated p.140 (another cast);
London, Lefevre Gallery, Small Bronzes and Drawings by Henry Moore, 30th November – 23rd December 1972, cat. no.12, illustrated p.31 (another cast);
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Third Floor Galleries, 29th March – 2nd January 1973 (this cast);
Amman, Jordan National Gallery, 40 Years of British Sculpture, 22nd May – 7th June 1981 (another cast), with tour to Harare, Belgrade, Skopje, Zagreb, Ljubljana, Novi Sad, Sarajevo, Athens, Cairo, Gaborone, Heraklion, Manila, London - Ontario, Red Deer, Lethbridge, Tallin, Riga, Vilnius and Kyiv; 
Sofia, 125 Rakovsky, 1300th Anniversary of the Founding of the Bulgarian State, 1981 (another cast), (details untraced);
Mexico City, Museo De Arte Moderno, Henry Moore: Esculturas, Dubjos, Grabados. Orbras 1921-1982, 1982 (another cast), with tour to Caracas;
Berlin, Nationalgalerie Der Staatlichen Museen, Henry Moore: Shelter and Coal Mining Drawings 1939-1942, 4thApril - 3rd June 1984 (another cast), with tour to Leipzig, Halle and Dresden;
Hong Kong, Hong Kong Museum of Art, The Art of Henry Moore, Sculptures, Drawings and Graphics 1921-1984, 1st February - 12th March 1986 (another cast), with tour to Tokyo and Fukuoka;
New Delhi, National Gallery of Modern Art, Henry Moore: Sculptures Drawings and Graphics 1922 to 1984, 1st October - 15th November 1987 (another cast);
Paris, Artcuial, British Sculptures of the XXTH Century, 1988 (another cast), (details untraced);
St Petersburg, The Russian Museum, A Changing World of Sculpture from the British Council Collection, 18th October - 21st November 1994 (another cast), with tour to Moscow, Prague, Casablanca and Essen; 
Vienna, Kunsthistoriches Museum, Henry Moore: Eine Tretropektive Zum 100 Geburstag, 1998 (another cast), (details untraced);
Manheim, Kunsthalle, Menschenbilder Figur In Zeiten Der Abstraktion, 1998 (another cast), (details untraced);
Leeds, Leeds City Art Gallery, Sculpture in the Home Re-Staging a Post War Initiative, 2nd October 2008 – 4th January 2009, illustrated (another cast).


Herbert Read (intro.), Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings, Lund Humphries, New York, 1949, cat. no.106b, illustrated (another cast);
Will Grohmann, The Art of Henry Moore, Thames and Hudson, London, 1960, cat. no.123, illustrated (another cast, dated 1946);
John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Spencer Moore, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1968, cat. no.9, illustrated p.177 (another cast);
Ionel Jianou, Henry Moore, Tudor Publishing, New York, 1968, illustrated pl.14 (another cast, dated 1946);
Robert Melville, Henry Moore: Sculpture and Drawings, 1921-1969, H. N. Abrams, London, 1970, p.353, cat. no.356, illustrated (another cast);
David Mitchinson (ed.), Henry Moore Sculpture, with Comments by the Artist, MacMillan, London, 1981, p.310, cat. no.175, illustrated p.94 (another cast);
David Sylvester (ed.), Henry Moore: Complete Sculpture 1921-48, Vol. I, Lund Humphries, London, 5th edi. 1988, cat. no.259, illustrated p.151 (another cast);
Connaissance des Arts, 'Moore,' June 1992, p.10, illustrated (another cast);
David Mitchinson (ed.), Celebrating Moore, Lund Humphries, Los Angeles, 1998, cat. no.155, illustrated p.221 (another cast, dated 1948-49).

Catalogue Note

Conceived in 1945 and cast by 1947, Henry Moore’s Family Group represents the zenith of sustained and involved investigation by the artist into the motif of parenthood. Academically and historically significant and representing a seminal moment in his artistic development, the sculpture is nonetheless pertinently personal and beguilingly intimate. Allied with its exquisite finish and exceptional provenance, the present work is a testament to Moore’s unparalleled achievements in sculpture: ‘Sculpture for me must have life in it, vitality ... It must have a feeling for organic form, a certain pathos and warmth’ (Henry Moore, interview with E. Roditi, Dialogues on Art, Ross Erikson, Santa Barbara, 1980, p.195).

The mother and child was one of the two central motifs, along with the reclining woman, that obsessed Moore for the duration of his lifetime. This image of the primal maternal bond was redolent with religious connotations, of the Madonna and Child, but its appeal was also secular and universal. Moore looks to ancient art, to Mexican and Sumerian art, as well as to classical antiquity, for inspiration in his earliest stone carvings in the 1920s, such as Mother and Child, 1922, and Mother and Child, 1924, (Collection City Art Gallery, Manchester). The seventh of eight children of a coalminer and a coalminer’s daughter, Moore was born in the industrial town of Castleford in Yorkshire. Whilst his father was strict, industrious and ambitious, his mother was ‘feminine, womanly, motherly…She was to me the absolute stability, the whole thing in life that one knew was there for one’s protection…’ (Henry Moore quoted in Norbert Lynton, ‘The Humanity of Moore’, in Henry Moore: The Human Dimension, HMF Enterprises Limited in association with The British Council, London, 1991, p.21).

With its roots in Moore’s earliest childhood experiences, Moore explored the mother and child motif in more and less direct guises throughout the 1920s and 1930s: from babies suckled and cradled by their mothers to more abstract interpretations of two separate but related forms or hollows with distinct elements held within the interior space. During World War II, Moore was commissioned to carve a Madonna and Child in Hornton stone for St Matthew’s Church in Northampton but, even more pertinently to the increased complexity of the family group motif, as an Official War Artist, Moore produced numerous drawings of civilians huddled in underground stations, sheltering from the bombing raids over London. These figures, clinging together for comfort and warmth, and draped in blankets, were of fundamental significance to Moore’s creative development of the family group scene and demonstrated the political bearing of his universal motifs: ‘…the scenes of the shelter world, static figures asleep – reclining figures – remained vivid in my mind. I felt somehow drawn to it all. Here was something I couldn’t help doing’ (Henry Moore quoted in James Johnson Sweeney, ‘Henry Moore’, Partisan Review, New York, March – April 1947, p.184).

Immediately after the war, the architect Eugene Rosenberg commissioned Moore to create a site-specific, large-scale sculpture for his current project, Barclay School, in Stevenage, England, with which he was  to win the Festival of Britain Architectural Award in 1951. Rosenberg, founding member of the architectural practice York, Rosenberg and Mardall, was a visionary Modernist with an all-encompassing approach to his ventures such as Gatwick Airport, the University of Warwick, and St Thomas’ Hospital, London. A central principal of his practice was to visualise architecture and art in tandem, working closely with avant-garde contemporary artists. He envisaged architecture and art not merely complementing but elevating one another so that a space would be understood phenomenologically as a total entity. Rosenberg’s natural sympathy with the artists with whom he worked led to him becoming a significant collector. Sotheby’s had the honour of selling a large part of his personal collection, including works by Henry Moore, F.E. McWilliam, William Scott, Naum Gabo and Eduardo Paolozzi in November 2014.

Barclay School was the first purpose-built comprehensive secondary school built in Britain after the war and Moore’s monumental version of Family Group was installed in 1950. The Barclay School Family Group, for which the present work is the maquette, was Moore’s first large-scale commission in bronze, a fundamental and seismic moment in his long and distinguished career. With this work, Moore drew on preparations for an earlier project, begun as war broke out, for prominent Modernist architects Walter Gropius and Maxwell Fry for a sculpture for a progressive school in Impington, near Cambridge. This school was designed as a focal point for the entire community, for parents as well as children, and thus Moore settled on the family group. Though this scheme failed to come to fruition due to a lack of funds, Moore continued to explore the motif of the mother, father and child (or children) through smaller-scale maquettes, as with the present work, and also in his sketchbooks.

In this work, the mother and father, sitting together on a bench and mirroring one another, hold their child entwined in their arms: ‘the arms of the mother and the father [intertwine] with the child forming a knot between them, tying the three into a family unity’ (Henry Moore quoted in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, London, 1968, p.177). Each face of the trio is endowed with finely unique details, delicately recessed bronze that denote eyes, eyebrows and mouths. Mother and father are subtly differentiated: the mother’s legs are shrouded in a skirt-like drapery seen in the Madonna and Child of St Matthew’s Church and her hair drawn into a bun whilst the father’s head is cleaved, his thighs conspicuous and his shoulders broader and more angular than the mother’s soft shaped shoulders and breasts. Joined together through the child, who is the focal point of the composition, physical intimacy thus becomes a metaphor for emotional bonds and familial support. Moore realises the hands of the couple with precision, each finger individually delineated. The father’s right hand rests gently on the mother’s shoulder whilst the other supports their child in its sitting position, legs draped over the father’s arm, and the mother grasps the baby’s waist. The sculpture is poised between Moore’s modernist sensibility for abstraction, present in the prominent striated ridges of the mother’s robes or the father’s Picasso-esque head, and touching naturalistic details. The outer shoulders of both mother and father curve gently inwards, an intimate protective stance that encloses their child and unifies the group. Moments of spontaneity animate the sculpture, through familiar gestures and intimate body language.

Turning to the family group immediately after the war was a creative progression both political and personal. Seen in the light of the post-war period, the family became a symbol of hope and love, of the intransience of human bonds of support, compassion and care, and of turning to the domestic and inner life in the face of immense and universal experiences of trauma. The family group also had a particularly personal resonance as Moore and his wife, Irina, had their first and only child, Mary, in 1946 after many years of marriage. She was a much loved and longed for addition to the family, and thus the household grouping in Moore’s sculpture took on a new significance.

The present cast was formerly in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, a clear indicator of its significance within Moore’s oeuvre. International appreciation of Moore’s work was burgeoning immediately after WWII: the work was acquired by MoMA in 1947, just two years after its conception. This particular cast, de-accessioned from the Museum in 1980 to New York collector and dealer Jeffrey H. Loria, possesses an exceptionally beautiful surface and rich patina. The bronze is enticingly smooth yet with passages of texturing on the upper torsos of the adults.

Family Group, therefore, holds a uniquely formative position, historically and creatively, within the development of Henry Moore’s career, with the large-scale iteration a fundamental spring-board to his post-war career. As well as the version at Barclay School, Stevenage, casts are held by the Tate, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Hakone Museum, Hakone; and the Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena. Just a few years later, in 1948, Moore would be awarded the international prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale, signalling his status as one of the most significant sculpors of his generation. Family Group is a symbol of all that Moore’s work stands for at this time: a universal humanity distilled into the form of the family unit.