Two Women and Children, 1945
Signed and dated lower right 'Moore 45'
Watercolour, wax crayon, brush and ink, wash and charcoal on paper
18 1/8 x 22 7/8 in, 45.8 x 58.2 cm
Henry Moore’s monumental drawing ‘Two Women and Children’ was created in 1945 as the shadow of the Second World War began to lift from Europe. This motif of the mother...
Henry Moore’s monumental drawing ‘Two Women and Children’ was created in 1945 as the shadow of the Second World War began to lift from Europe. This motif of the mother and child had become a recurrent theme in Moore’s work during the conflict as a defiant symbol of nurturing love and protection as well as an interpretation of the Madonna and Christ. For Moore the portrayal of this intimate relationship was also deeply personal. Throughout the first ten years of his marriage, Moore had struggled to conceive with his wife Irina before their daughter Mary was born just a year after this drawing was made.
‘Two Women and Children’ relates closely to a series of fourteen ‘Family Group’ sculptures cast in the mid-1940s (Tate, London and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). The origin of this sculpture lies in a public commission for a school in Impington near Cambridge, proposed by the German architect Walter Gropius in 1939. While this commission was never realised, Moore filled sketchbooks with drawings of the family group in various poses, inspired by figures huddled together in the London underground during the Blitz. The present drawing is one of the most monumental works from the ‘Family Group’ drawings of this period, other large-scale examples of which can now be found at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; The Henry Moore Foundation, Perry Green; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington; The Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis; Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection, University of East Anglia, Norwich and Arts Council Collection, London.
‘Two Women and Children’ is a remarkable example of the wax resist technique that Moore developed before the war and employed throughout his haunting images of the London air raid shelters. By applying washes of watercolour to layers of wax crayon, pen and pencil, Moore intensified the contrast between light and shadow to add depth and texture to his drawings. In ‘Two Women and Children’ this technique highlights the curves of the two monumental female bodies and reveals the nature of Moore’s drawing not just as preparatory study, but a singular creative process.
‘Two Women and Children’ was first acquired by the prominent Jewish art dealer Curt Valentin, who established an outpost of the Buchholz gallery in New York in 1937 having fled Germany with the rise of the Nazi Party. The work then passed through important private collections including the Russian-American publisher and artist Alexander Liberman, as well as John Hay Whitney, the former Ambassador to Britain, and his wife Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney. Over generations the Whitney family established one of the world’s leading Impressionist and Modern art collections, featuring the likes of Gauguin, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Braque and Moore. This drawing was one of 50 works sold in the historic Whitney estate sale at Sotheby’s New York in 1999 where it was acquired by the legendary collector and former chairman of Sotheby’s, A. Alfred Taubman.
Buchholz Gallery (Curt
Valentin), New York (no.8200, photo no.U88)
Alexander Liberman, New York
E.V. Thaw & Co., New York
Mr & Mrs John Hay Whitney, New York (acquired from the above in November
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, 10
May 1999, lot 34 (consigned by the above)
Alfred Taubman, New York (purchased at the above sale)
Sale: Sotheby's, New York, The
Collection of A. Alfred Taubman, 5 November 2015, lot 101T
Private Collection, Europe
(purchased at the above sale)
Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore, Complete Drawings,
1940-49, vol.III, The Henry Moore Foundation/ Lund Humphries, London,
2001, no.AG 45.8, illus. p.236