Seated Figures (recto and verso), 1950-51
Signed and dated lower right 'Moore 51', titled centre left 'Seated Figures' and inscribed upper centre 'Interior & exterior forms Heads'; inscribed verso
Gouache, watercolour, brush and grey wash and white wax crayon over pencil on paper (recto); pencil on paper (verso)
11 3/8 x 9 1/4 in, 28.9 x 23.5 cm
Henry Moore completed this remarkable double-sided drawing of various seated figures and abstract forms in his sketchbook between 1950 and 1951. By this moment of his career in the wake...
Henry Moore completed this remarkable double-sided drawing of various seated figures and abstract forms in his sketchbook between 1950 and 1951. By this moment of his career in the wake of the Second World War, Moore was celebrated as the most important modern sculptor in the world. Having exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1948, Moore went on to take a starring role in the Festival of Britain in 1951 and to become the first living artist to be the subject of a film, produced by the BBC in tandem with his first major retrospective at Tate, London. ‘Seated Figures (recto and verso)’ marks this critical period of success in Moore’s life as well as his skills as a nuanced draughtsman.
Following the Second World War, Moore referred often to his wartime anxieties in the fragile, fallen figures that filled his drawings and sculptures. On the recto of this drawing, Moore pictures a variety of seated figures with truncated forms that echo the huddled figures of the London air raid shelters and bodies of the battlefield. These drawings reveal the experimental nature of Moore’s process as he studied the nature of forms and constructed new sculptural concepts. The seated figures from this sketch refer particularly to Moore’s sculptures of the period including ‘King and Queen’ (1952) (MOA Museum of Art, Atami; Middelheim Open Air Sculpture Museum, Antwerp); ‘Rocking Chair’ (1950) and ‘Family Group’ (1948-9) (Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Gallery, London).
The seated figures in this drawing are drawn using Moore’s characteristic wax resist technique, developed before the war and employed throughout his haunting images of the London Underground. 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 this group of sketches, the wax resist technique highlights the curves and three-dimensionality of the figures and suggests the importance of Moore’s drawings not just as preparatory studies, but a singular creative process.
On the verso of the page Moore experiments with two abstract forms and a sketch from the ‘Helmet Head’ series. Alongside these drawings, Moore has made short notes about the sculptural possibilities for the seated figures, suggesting they could be an interpretation of the iconic mother and child motif.
The present double-sided drawing was acquired from the collection of Ronald P. Stanton, a refugee from Nazi Germany before the outbreak of the Second World War who would become one of New York’s most prominent businessmen and philanthropists. During his lifetime, Stanton amassed a remarkable collection of work by Impressionist, Modern and Post-War artists including Picasso, Rodin, Bonnard, Renoir, Matisse and Moore. This work was acquired directly from the Stanton estate sale at Christie’s New York in 2017.
David Popper, Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire (acquired by 1970)
Private Collection, Canada (acquired c.1975)
Christie's, New York, 9 November 2006, lot 176 (consigned by the above)
Collection of Ronald P. Stanton (acquired from the above)
R. Melville, Henry Moore, Sculpture and Drawings, 1921-1969, London, 1970, pl.427, illustrated p.356
A. Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore, Complete Drawings, 1950-1976, vol.4, London, 2003, p.35, illustrated no.50-51.34