Henry Moore, Figure on a Pedestal Sculpture. Image courtesy of Bonhams
LONDON — Reclining Figure on a Pedestal, a major and monumental bronze sculpture by one of Britain’s greatest artists, Henry Moore (1898-1986), will be at the center of Bonhams sale of Modern British and Irish Art in November. Estimated at $1.6 million – 3.2 million, the large bronze sculpture represents one of the best examples of the artist’s works. Created at the height of Moore’s artistic career, Reclining Figure on a Pedestal is a monumental sculpture with great provenance. It has been included in three outstanding public art gallery permanent collections on three different continents, including South America, North America and Europe.
Reclining Figure on a Pedestal (1959-60) has a horizontal configuration that equates the female form with undulating landscape and natural forms. In contrast to the Orientalist tradition of the recumbent nude, Moore’s sculpture has an undulating shape that infuses organic rhythm within the work. The surging form has been a major characteristic in many of Moore’s reclining figures. Inspired by nature in the form of shells, bones, rocks and stones, these natural forms have evolved over the years in his sculpture, giving birth to exciting image.
The pedestal is an integral part of Reclining Figure on a Pedestal. The base not only gives the reclining figure a powerful presence, but also enhances its status as a monumental piece of sculpture. The solid three-dimensional base raises the figure close to eye level with the viewer in a way that engages the reclining figure in a conversation. With two small perfectly incised hollows denoting the eyes and a very shallow, curved incised line as mouth, there is no doubt the dialogue will be sensual .
The pedestal in Reclining Figure on a Pedestal brings to the fore an artistic experiment Moore had explored previous sculptures. Moore had used the pedestal on several occasions in the past. For example, works as early as Reclining Figure, (1929) are positioned on top of a pedestal of raw stone. The famous UNESCO Reclining Figure, completed over the three years prior to Reclining Figure on a Pedestal is the largest and most defined pedestal predating 1959.
Reclining Figure on a Pedestal represents a major oeuvre in Henry Moore’s artistic career. Throughout his career, he kept returning to the reclining nude figure. Simply put, he was obsessed with the female form. He returned to it time after time, bringing forth a fresh insight to an old theme. For Moore, returning to the reclining figure provided the opportunity to explore formal ideas and also experiment with new ones. According to Moore, returning to the same idea over and over again helped him renew himself. Commenting on his fixation for the reclining figure, Moore notes:
I want to be quite free of having to find a ‘reason’ for doing the Reclining Figures, and freer still of having to find a ‘meaning’ for them. The vital thing for an artist is to have a subject that allows [him] to try out all kinds of formal ideas, things that he doesn’t yet know about for certain but wants to experiment with, as Cézanne did in his ‘Bathers’ series. In my case the reclining figure provides chances of that sort. The subject-matter is given. It’s settled for you, and you know it and like it, so that within it, within the subject that you’ve done a dozen times before, you are free to invent a completely new form-idea.
Since its conception in 1959-60, casts of the highly acclaimed Reclining Figure on a Pedestal have been exhibited on numerous occasions in Europe and the USA. Besides showing Moore’s dexterity as a sculptor, the bronze sculpture also shows his mastery of the bronze as medium of artistic expression. Moore once intimated that the maternal element of his Reclining Figures references both womanhood and Mother Earth. Matthew Bradbury, Director at Bonhams explains the source of the bronze sculpture. He notes: “Reclining Figure on a Pedestal’ belongs to a major U.K. Corporation and was acquired directly from the artist in the early 1960s. It is with great pride and excitement, therefore, Bonhams are presenting this important sculpture for sale at auction for the very first time.”
Before going on auction in London during Bonhams sale of Modern British and Irish Art in November, Reclining Figure on a Pedestal will be exhibited at Bonhams in New York in October and early November alongside Bonhams Impressionist & Modern Art auction.