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WICHITA STATE UNIVERSITY SCULPTURE TOUR

Reclining Figure (Hand)

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Relining HandArtist - Henry Moore
Born - 1898
Died - 1986
Origin - England
Year Built - 1979

About the Artist:  Like his contemporary Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore is considered one of the seminal figures in British modernism. Moore entered the Leeds School of Art in 1919 but transferred to the Royal College of Art on a scholarship in 1921. After graduating and then accepting a teaching position at the Royal College, he began to explore the possibilities of the reclining form after seeing a Mayan Chac Mool sculpture from Chichen Itza in a German publication in 1925. Inspired by the monumental forms, he began carving figures composed of solid, simple masses, culminating in his first Reclining Figure, 1929 (Leeds City Art Gallery). Moore incorporated the hole or void into his figures shortly thereafter under the influence of Hepworth. Moore gained international acclaim in 1948 when he won the International Prize for sculpture at the 24th Venice Biennale. Similar accolades followed with prizes at the Sao Paulo Biennial in 1953 and Tokyo Biennale in 1959. Queen Elizabeth II conferred the Order of Merit on the artist in 1963.

Reclining Figure (Hand), 1979, depicts a reclining feminine form, wrapped in cloth or perhaps skin. Julian Stallabrass has read archetypal meaning, suggestive of Mother Earth imagery, into the sculpture: "It is implied that these forms are emergent, struggling to break free of what confines them. If woman is identified with landscapes, with nature, these awakening forms are not merely feminine but "primordial", the stirring of primitive magma beneath the crust of civilization." The simplified form and unusual structuring of anatomy impart naivete. While the head and upper torso face frontally, the lower torso and legs, which are depicted in a larger scale, point to the side, falling away from the upper torso perpendicularly. Moore creates the monumentality of the form in part through the small proportion of the head in relation to the body. While these proportions are inspired in part by Chac Mool figures, the disproportionate volumes may have some relation to the figures of Michelangelo. The Old Master's figures for the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican in Rome are often monumental in character with large muscular anatomy and relatively disproportionate heads. Michelangelo's figure Night, 1521-34, for the Tomb of Giuliano de Medici in Florence possesses a similar pose and proportions. Moore admired Michelangelo's figures and on many occasions sought to combine his interests in Pre-Columbian and Italian Renaissance art.