Details & Cataloguing

Modern & Post-War British Art


Henry Moore
1898 - 1986
signed and numbered 5/9
length (including integral bronze base): 24cm.; 9½in.
Conceived in 1950, the present work is number 5 from the edition of 9 plus 1 Artist's cast. 
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Marlborough Fine Art, London
Wolfgang Fischer, London 
Sale, Sotheby's London, 25th June 1996, lot 193
Waddington Galleries, London
Jeffrey Loria, New York
Galerie Pascal Lansberg, Paris
Private Collection, Switzerland, from whom acquired by the present owner


London, Marlborough Fine Art, Henry Moore, 1966, cat. no.6 (another cast). 


Herbert Read, Henry Moore Sculpture and Drawings, London, 1965, vol. II, cat. no.292a, p.xxiv, illustrated (another cast);
John Hedgecoe, Henry Moore, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1968, p.150, illustrated pls.1, 2 (another cast);
Ionel Jianou, Henry Moore, Paris, 1968, cat. no.276, p.76;
Robert Melville, Henry Moore, Sculpture and Drawings, 1921-1969, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1970, cat. no.418, illustrated, unpaginated (another cast);
Alan Bowness (ed.), Henry Moore Complete Sculpture, 1949-1954, Vol. 2, Lund Humphries, London, 1986, cat. no.292a, illustrated p.33 (another cast). 

Catalogue Note

In 1949, Henry Moore was commissioned by the Arts Council of Great Britain to produce a sculpture for the Festival of Britain. Marking the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition, the Festival was designed to rally the spirits of an economically and spiritually devastated post-war Britain. Moore produced one of his most famed works, Reclining Figure: Festival for the event held on London’s South Bank and the present work, Small Maquette No. 1 for Reclining Figure was crafted during the process of reaching the final form for the monumental sculpture. Reclining Figure: Festival speaks to common humanity, a profound symbol of resilience and an enduring testament to survival and human strength. On its unveiling, critic Eric Newton described it as ‘the lithest and supplest of all his creations…Waves of movement run up the legs, rising like the swell of the sea, swinging round from front to back (if a design so completely grasped from every point of view can be said to possess a front and a back) ...’ (Eric Newton, ‘What Do the Public Think? Henry Moore’s New Work at the Festival’, Art Fortnightly, 11th May 1951, Henry Moore Foundation Archive).

The six-month process of producing Reclining Figure: Festival was the subject of a BBC documentary made by John Read, charting the development from initial drawings to its multi-part casting at the Gaskin foundry. Though Moore’s critical fame was in the ascendency after representing Britain at the 1948 Venice Biennale, the film brought his work to a wider public audience. The present work is the first of the two maquettes, and this cast is very close to the finished sculpture. The linear pattern was developed in tandem with the form from the outset by Moore pressing string into the plaster. In the bronze of the maquette, the end result is an extraordinary and beautiful texture to the surface, leading our eye down and around the sinuous curves of the figure.  

The reclining figure and the mother and child motif were the two fundamental obsessions of Moore’s career. At the heart of the preoccupation with the reclining figure is the relationship between human and landscape, between presence and absence, between the solid and the surround. In Small Maquette No. 1 for Reclining Figure, the figure is no longer pierced by a hole that introduces space into the previously impenetrable solid sculpture but instead space – and, by extension, the environment – partners the bronze. In 1954, Moore wrote, ‘If space is a willed, a wished-for element in the sculpture, then some distortion of the form – to ally itself to the space – is necessary…Recently, I have attempted to make the forms and the spaces (not holes) inseparable, neither being more important than the other. In the last bronze, Reclining Figure, I think I have in some measure succeeded in this aim.’ (Henry Moore quoted in Felix Man, Eight European Artists, London, 1954, unpaginated). Placed outside the Pavilion of the Festival dedicated to the ‘Land of Britain’ (or ‘Country’), the female figure became a shorthand for fecundity, a personification of the physical and psychical nurturing properties of the landscape. The culmination of this variant of the reclining figure motif, before Moore progressed to more classical interpretations, Small Maquette No. 1 for Reclining Figure is a marker of one of the most significant public sculptures of the post-war period, in Britain and internationally. The perfect fusion of Neo-Romanticism and Surrealism, of individual apprehension and collective hope, the work represents a seminal moment in the career of Britain's greatest 20th century artist.

Modern & Post-War British Art