Henry Moore’s “Reclining Figure” is a splendid example of the pre-eminent British sculptor’s mature work. His sensitive handling of material and his mastery of open and closed form have captured the weight, dignity and living force of a monumental woman. Installed in front of the Segerstrom Hall, this stately bronze is a gift of “The Angels of the Arts”.
Moore is a figure of international prominence, but certain aspects of his work still baffle some members of his audience. Why, they wonder does he carve holes in his figures? And why does he make his great bronze people so abstract?
Moore answers eloquently, not in words but through his powerful art. By designing a void in the mass of his “Reclining Figure,” he calls attention to the bronze’s three-dimensional qualities and to the space that defines them. We see that space around the enormous figure is as important as the solid material. By fashioning relatively realistic hands on an abstract figure whose legs are without feet, Moore suggests that realism and abstraction are not opposites but part of a continuum. All art is abstract to some degree; Moore’s work flows easily from representation to non-objectivity.
During his long career, Moore was influenced by the timeless vigor of ancient sculpture; he was inspired by nature, as was deeply moved by the sight of his countrymen huddled in subway bomb shelters. He has assimilated such experiences and filtered them through a romantic sensibility that sees human beings as loving, noble forms.
“All art should have a certain mystery and should make demands on the spectator. Giving a sculpture or a drawing too explicit a title takes away part of that mystery so that the spectator moves on to the next object, making no effort to ponder the meaning of what he has just seen. Everyone thinks that he or she looks but they don’t really, you know.”
- Henry Moore
Bio: (1898 -1986) Castleford, England. Henry Moore was a British artist and sculptor. The son of a mining engineer, Moore became well known for his large-scale, abstract cast bronze and carved marble sculptures. Substantially supported by the British art establishment, Moore helped to introduce a particular form of modernism into Britain.
His ability to satisfy large-scale commissions made him exceptionally wealthy towards the end of his life. However, he lived frugally and most of his wealth went to endow the Henry Moore Foundation, which continues to support education and promotion of the arts.
His signature form is a pierced reclining figure, first influenced by a Toltec-Maya sculpture known as Chac Mool, which he had seen as a plaster cast in Paris in 1925. Early versions are pierced conventionally as a bent arm reconnects with the body. Later more abstract versions are pierced directly through the body in order to explore the concave and convex shapes. These more extreme piercings developed in parallel with Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures. Hepworth first pierced a torso after misreading a review of one of Henry Moore’s early shows. Moore, one of the undisputed giants of 20th century sculpture, said, “All sculpture is based on hlJman form. I would likemy work to be thought of as a celebration of life and nature.”
The Piece: The Reclining Figure is located at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. A gift from “The Angels of the Arts,” a major support group to the Arts Center. To the Center, it is a splendid example of the renowned sculptor’s mature work suggesting realism and abstraction. By designing a void in the mass of his piece, Moore encourages us to see that space around the figure is as important as its solid material. Through his mastery of open and closed form, l\IIoore has captured the dignity and living force of a woman. Designing a void in the mass-calls attention to three dimensional qlJalities and space that defines them.
- Moore was the seventh of eight children.
- He was the youngest man in his regiment in World War I, the Civil Service Rifles. He saw action in the Battle of Cambrai but was injured in a gas attack.
- His works range from $3,500 up to $1,600,000 for a large reclining figure. The average price for one of his sculptures stands at $68,000. There is no official figure but the number of Henry Moore sculptures in circulation – probably totals about 5,000. There are also 5,500 drawings extant and 719 editions of lithographs, etchings and so on. Investors may conclude that prices for a great sculptor’s work are unlikely to mark time for long. During the last years of his life, twenty-odd exhibitions were held annually worldwide.