Saturday Art: Henry Moore’s Reclining Woman

Reclining Woman by Henry Moore

(Picture courtesy of wallyg at

A dominant figure in the art world, Henry Moore has established monumental and intriguing figures in collections throughout the world.   The Reclining Woman II at the Hirshorn Sculpture Garden (above) is an experience of the studies he has presented over the past century.  The reclining figures he created originated from his travels to art centers to develop his own style from what he found to admire in others.

Henry Moore is said to have first encountered the image of the reclining figure in Paris in 1925 in a plaster cast of an ancient Mexican Toltec-Maya figure in the Trocadero Museum. It was to become probably his most frequently explored theme, revisited hundreds of times over the following 60 years before his death in 1986.

Originally influenced by primitive art , Moore worked in large, dominant figures that are placed in the landscape and meant to provoke the senses.

Moore’s signature form is a reclining figure. Moore’s exploration of this form, under the influence of the Toltec-Mayan figure he had seen at the Louvre, was to lead him to increasing abstraction as he turned his thoughts towards experimentation with the elements of design. Moore’s earlier reclining figures deal principally with mass, while his later ones contrast the solid elements of the sculpture with the space, not only round them but generally through them as he pierced the forms with openings.

Earlier figures are pierced in a conventional manner, in which bent limbs separate from and rejoin the body. The later, more abstract figures are often penetrated by spaces directly through the body, by which means Moore explores and alternates concave and convex shapes.


When Moore’s niece asked why his sculptures had such simple titles, he replied,

“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.” [34]

Moore cast his shadow over worldwide experience from the World War I era to the recent past, dying in 1986 but leaving behind a foundation that continues to place his works where the public will appreciate them.

Draped Reclining Woman at Kew Gardens

(Picture courtesy of ramson at

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