what is the medium of henry moore’s recumbent figure?
The completed sculpture was delivered in 1938, but Chermayeff had paid only the £50 deposit of the £300 price before he became bankrupt in 1939. Chermayeff suggested to Moore that he could take the sculpture back and resell it. Moore returned the deposit and the sculpture was returned to him. At the suggestion of Kenneth Clark, it was offered to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, but the gallery declined. Clark then arranged for the Contemporary Art Society to buy it for £300, and the society presented it to the Tate Gallery in 1939. The Tate’s previous director JB Manson had said Moore would appear in the gallery over his dead body; Manson retired in 1938, and his successor John Rothenstein was much more welcoming.
Moore’s large stone sculpture depicts a reclining female figure, which resembles the undulating landscape of the South Downs nearby. Chermayeff’s commission was the first free-standing sculpture that Moore made to complement a specific building, a requirement that became a key feature of his later work. Moore considered the work to be site specific.
Reclining Figure post-conservation
Reclining Figure, which Moore created in 1932, represents the largest of his approximately 21 sculptures in concrete and one of the most important examples of his work in this medium. Here a female figure reclines on a concrete slab base. Leaning on her right elbow and raising her left leg, the figure achieves balance and a sense of permanence. The exaggerated size and curve of her limbs contribute to the sculpture’s monumentality.
If Moore, in his earlier years, had conformed with the general notion of paring away traditional associations from his art, he knew perfectly well that there was only so far that one could go in this direction. Elsen believes that the sculptor counted on the persistence of psychological associations with shape. This Jungian view of the universe also explains Moore’s traditionalism, in terms of materials and basic subject matter. New materials, whether used by the Constructivists, by the new generation of British sculptors in the ’50s, or by artists everywhere after the ’60s, were selected for their lack of cultural memory, art historical baggage, and reference. Moore needed precisely these areas excluded by the new sculpture. His art was not one of paring down but rather, like a pebble in the pool, of resonance, whether in the echoing singularity of the ripple effect or in the complex creation of meaningful ambiguity.
Thousands of words have been written about the female forms in Moore’s work but most of them consist of formal analysis. The descriptive references are non-threatening: aloof, serene, static, healthy, optimistic, passive, firmly fleshed, fully rounded, introspective, contemplative, non-erotic, mature, or middle-aged, unemotional, and faceless. Moore’s women are the possessors of a quiet majesty, almost entirely lacking in any interior or psychological life. Even when a psychological approach is made, it stresses the generalizing element. 20 One might have thought, however, that someone would have noticed the seeming paradox that in Moore’s drawings, the women are, upon occasion, quite specifically young, nubile, naked, and individualized.
© The Henry Moore Foundation; All rights reserved DACS 2014
Take a look at the slideshow below to explore the sculpture more closely from different angles and viewpoints. Look at the shapes and forms of the sculpture and think about what remind you of. Also try and imagine that you are looking at the sculpture for the first time and know nothing about it. Does it look like an ancient object or a modern object?
Henry Moore (1898 – 1986), born in Castleford, Yorkshire, is the outstanding British sculptor of the mid-20th century. Reclining Figure’ (1929) is one of Henry Moore’s earliest sculptural achievements. It shows the essential ingredients of his practice including his passionate commitment to the principle of ‘truth to materials’, his diverse range of artistic influences and his creation of a special relationship between the human figure and landscape. ‘Reclining Figure’ was carved by the artist in Brown Hornton Stone, sourced from quarries in North West Oxfordshire. Its simplified forms show the influence of non-western carving, which Moore discovered in the British Museum, and of the early work of Pablo Picasso. The ‘bumps and hollows’ of the figure and the markings of the stone recall the undulations of a natural landscape. Moore was born in Castleford, Yorkshire in 1898 and attended Leeds School of Art (1919 – 1921).
Henry Moore (1898 – 1986), born in Castleford, Yorkshire, is the outstanding British sculptor of the mid-20th century.