Reclining figures, 1943
Signed and dated lower left 'Moore 43' and with various inscriptions by the artist
Pencil, charcoal, wax crayons, pen and ink and wash on paper
17 3/4 x 25 1/4 in, 45.2 x 64.1 cm
Created at the height of the Second World War in 1943, Henry Moore’s ‘Reclining figures’ appear in a dark, subterranean landscape that relates closely to the iconic Shelter drawings of...
Created at the height of the Second World War in 1943, Henry Moore’s ‘Reclining figures’ appear in a dark, subterranean landscape that relates closely to the iconic Shelter drawings of 1940 and 1941. Much like the figures huddled together in the caverns of the London Underground, each sinewy body in this image is cocooned in a womb-like space, which protects and guards them. Moore returned to this motif of the reclining figure throughout the Second World War in a series of drawings that would become the basis of some of his most celebrated sculptural work.
In this drawing Moore records his ideas for the materials that could be used for six reclining figure sculptures in the future, with inscriptions including ‘Tense bone-like form (wood)’, ‘Flats + swellings (wood)’ and ‘Square wide through – forced projections & recessions (stone)’. Moore was fascinated with the organic matter of shells, bones and driftwood, which he collected in his studio at Perry Green and used as inspiration for the natural forms of his abstract bodies. Critic Geoffrey Grigson also praised Moore’s natural palette in his drawings during this period, referring to the artist’s “appetite for the colours of nature, the lichen on the grey rock, the coloured textured of weather-worn stone”.
While Moore’s drawings were a means to resolve and develop sculptural ideas, they are also pivotal creative works in their own right that reveal the artist’s skill as a draughtsman. In this example, the body in the top right of the page with its pierced abdomen and heaving chest refers back to a ‘Reclining Figure’ in lead from 1939, now in the Tate Collection. By returning to this distorted body, this drawing is shown to be more than a preparatory study.
‘Reclining Figures’ was created at a landmark moment of success for Moore when his partnership with the War Art Committee resulted in his first pivotal exhibition in the USA at the Buchholz Gallery, which launched his international reputation. This drawing was later exhibited at the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Foundation in California (March 2000). Their collection is regarded as one of the outstanding private sculpture collections.
Paula Zurcher, Chicago (acquired before 1950 and thence by descent)
Private Collection, USA
Stanford, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Centre for Visual Arts, Stanford University, on loan, March 2000
Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore, Complete Drawings,
1940-49, vol.III, The Henry Moore Foundation/ Lund Humphries, London,
2001, no.AG 43.107 HMF 2156, illus. p.196