Henry Moore, the celebrated British sculptor, not only achieved remarkable success in the art market but also made a lasting impact on the world of sculpture. His print works, often serving as essential studies for his sculptures, provide valuable insights into his creative process. Moore's visionary approach to sculptural form, transforming traditional odalisque representations into biomorphic reclining figures, radiates a sense of modernity, amplified by his meticulous spatial awareness and commanding presence within the landscape. With a global demand spanning Asia, Europe, and the United States, Moore's art market remains robust, with repeat sales consistently showcasing the enduring value of his work. Inspired by the female form, including his own mother, and drawing inspiration from revered modern masters like Cézanne and his depictions of female bathers, Moore's sculptures and prints also pay homage to the drapery techniques found in ancient Greek sculpture. While numerous sculptures by Moore are housed in public collections, acquiring one of his works on the secondary market represents a rare opportunity to own a tangible piece of his artistic exploration.
Reclining Figure: Festival (1951) marks a significant milestone in Henry Moore's career as it represents his first life-size reclining figure, specially commissioned for the Festival of Britain in 1951. This work initially attracted criticism: some considered it a radical abstraction, while others found it audacious, reminiscent of the skeletal remains of war victims. However, more appropriately, the work was also celebrated for its innovative approach and embodiment of humanist aesthetics, setting an unprecedented benchmark for the trajectory of British Modernism.
In addition to its creative impact on Modern art, Moore's Reclining Figure: Festival has demonstrated remarkable value and appreciation in the secondary market. The above edition 5 has been successfully sold three times, increasing in value with each consecutive sale. Most recently, the work sold at Sotheby's in November 2022, setting a new auction record for Moore, fetching £26,361,314 (fees included).
The reclining figure motif held a profound significance for Henry Moore, transcending its status as a mere emblem to become a thematic development continuously explored throughout his career. The above Reclining Figure (1982) twists and contorts through the mid-torso, skillfully maintaining a delicate weight balance through the hip, firmly rooted within the forearm and two feet. Unlike his earlier explorations, Moore introduces a drapery around the two feet, enhancing balance and stability within the contorted body, attributes of formalism and elegance, inviting contemplation from various angles.
This work is an edition of nine and sold at Christie's in November 2017 for an impressive sum of £8,392,340 (fees included). Another edition of this same work also sold at Christie's in November 2018, commanding £7,171,584 (fees included). These achievements firmly establish these works among Moore's top-selling pieces, further attesting to their artistic merit and market value.
Further exploring the concept of balance, Henry Moore began to explore the physical fragmentation of sculptures, evident in Large Four Piece Reclining Figure (1972-1973). This work presents the reclining figure in four parts offering varied perspectives of each form. Upon close observation, the work gives the illusion that if manoeuvred in a specific way, the forms could align and interlock within various places. Although fragmented, the same sense of balance and harmony is achieved through the intentional staking and placement of each piece. Moore's artistic genius lies in his ability to depict the human form in a paradoxically uncanny yet recognisable manner, blending elements of modernity, surrealism, and constructivism.
Large Four Piece Reclining Figure is within Moore's top-selling works, realising £6,350,513 (fees included) at Christie's in May 2017.
($7,437,500 USD )
Seated Woman (1957) belongs to a distinguished collection of female sculptures created by Henry Moore during the 1950s. This seminal work represents a departure from the prevalent reclining forms through a specification of gender and a new approach to seated figures.
The sculpture depicts a woman with a wide torso and a prominent pregnancy. Scholars and literature have extensively documented Moore's fascination with the female figure, which traces back to his relationship with his mother. The journey of life and the human form was a profound inspiration and played a vital role in his sculptural and artistic exploration. Seated Woman is an intimately personal work, crafted in plaster and cast in bronze. It stands among Moore's most celebrated creations and achieved £5,760,344 (fees included) at Sotheby's in May 2017.
Conceived in 1968, Working Model for Three Piece No. 3: Vertebrae draws inspiration from the human skeletal framework. This sculpture presents fragmented vertebrae sculptures interconnected in a unified composition, symbolising their interdependence and functional significance. This work is part of an experimental series beginning in the 1960s, with each subsequent sculpture gradually increasing in size, reflecting Henry Moore's unyielding ambition. The largest among these works stands over twenty-four feet tall, prominently displayed outside Dallas City Hall in the United States. Other variations of this exceptional artwork have found their place in esteemed collections, including Tate London and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.
These sculptures are exceedingly rare in the auction market, and the above Working Model for Three Piece No. 3: Vertebrae occupies a significant position among Moore's top-selling works and achieved £5,081,250 (fees included) at Christie's in February 2012.
In the vibrant and transformative era of the 1960s and 1970s, Henry Moore embarked on a significant artistic journey, delving deep into the concept of dividing his exploration of the reclining figure. This exploratory realm is particularly remarkable due to the surrealist undertones and innovative biomorphic representation that these creations achieve through a presentation of fragments.
Two Piece Reclining Figure: Points (1969-1970), realised £5,056,172 (fees included) at Christie's in November 2015, a testament to its artistic merit and historical significance.
During the 1930s, Henry Moore devoted much of his early drawings to exploring the nude seated figure. However, it was in the 1950s that he elevated these initial concepts, delving into a more delicate portrayal of the intimate bond and nurturing relationship shared between mother and child.
In Mother And Child With Apple (1956), the mother embodies a sense of strength and stability, firmly rooted and assuming the role of protector. She engages with the standing child supported in her lap, who is playfully distracted with an apple, creating a natural and tender humanistic connection representative of everyday interactions. This work is part of an edition of 10 and sold for £5,010,500 (fees included) at Christie's in February 2014 the highest recorded selling price for this work.
During his early artistic period, Henry Moore embarked on an exploration of heads featuring distinct Aztec chacmool features. This distinctive artwork defies traditional notions of symmetry, as Moore introduces a flattened nose that disrupts the alignment of the eyes, resulting in a mask-like appearance. Moore's fascination with the head persisted throughout his career, extending to his prints. In his later works, he delved deeper into capturing the skeletal elements that define animal heads, exemplified by the notable Elephant Skull I (1970).
The piece depicted above, created circa 1934-1936, realised £4,621,250 (fees included) at Christie's in June 2018.
($8,408,000 USD )
Executed in 1975, Three-Piece Reclining Figure: Draped is a monumental sculptural study that departs from Henry Moore's earlier exploration of two-piece compositions. With this artwork, Moore fractures the form into three distinct parts, thus redefining and reinterpreting his sculptural language. The three fragments of the sculpture boast smooth and sinuous contours. A radiant arch resembles a bent leg. Positioned behind these arches, a totemic oval shape rises. Its curvatures ironically resemble the physical attributes of a heart organ, encouraging viewing from various vantage points and inviting subjective interpretations.
Three-Piece Reclining Figure: Draped is a seminal and ambitious creation, exemplifying Moore's profound artistic vision. It achieved remarkable success at Sotheby's in November 2004, commanding an impressive sale price of £4,549,569 (fees included).
Draped Reclining Woman (1957-1958) exists as an edition of six, with the majority residing in public collections. This work exemplifies Henry Moore's distinctive fusion of more profound human characteristics and a drapery technique, all while retaining his unmistakable aesthetic rooted in natural forms and equilibrium. The result is a posture that gracefully oscillates between a reclining and alert state, serving as a testament to Moore's exploration of spatial form and balance.
The above Draped Reclining Woman commanded a remarkable sale price of £4,297,250 (fees included) at Christie's in June 2008. This achievement firmly cements its status among Moore's top-selling works.