Henry Moore and Churchill at Dreweatts Contemporary Art Auction

A barely 11cm bronze sculpture by one of the greatest British sculptors of the 20th century, Henry Moore (1898-1986), will be auctioned off at the Dreweatts Modern and Contemporary Art sale on October 12, 2021.

The work entitled Reclining nude: crossed feet depicts a reclining female nude – a form that dominated Moore’s artistic work throughout his career. He liked the composition both for the spirit of the idea, as well as the freedom of expression it afforded him. The work is typical of Moore’s small scale bronzes. The soft curves of the body dominate the form, while the smaller head, with its lack of naturalistic facial features, hints at a generic stylized form rather than a custom image.

Supported on both arms, the body creates a contrasting mix of soft curves and sharper angles at the joints, interrupted by the absence of hands and feet. Despite the simplification of the form, the work remains more naturalistic than his first abstract sculptures. The piece premiered in 1980 and is valued at between £ 60,000-80,000 when auctioned at the Dreweatts Modern and Contemporary Art Sale on October 12, 2021. (See working video here: https: //youtu.be/KTedbvnD-zk)

Important

Another important job of Moore in sales is Queen’s Head (Study). Bronze is one of many preparatory works produced by Moore for the large-scale group sculpture King and Queen. The studies and final sculpture are unusual in Moore’s repertoire, depicting a defined subject rather than the usual universal human form. They are also the only sculptures depicting a single pair of adult figures in Moore’s entire repertoire. Moore himself has offered the following explanation, although others have suggested that the moment of the play with the coronation of Elizabeth II did not fail to impress some interest in the artist:

“The ‘King and Queen’ is rather strange. Like many of my sculptures, I cannot explain exactly how it evolved. Anything can get me started with an idea for sculpture, and in this case it was playing with a small piece of modeling wax. … As he handled a piece of wax, he began to look like a bearded head with horns, similar to Pan’s. Then he pushed a crown and I immediately recognized him as the head of a king. I went on and gave him a body. When wax hardens, it is almost as strong as metal. I used this special force to repeat in the body the aristocratic refinement that I found in the head. Then I added a second figure to it and it became a “king and queen”. I realized now that was because I read stories to Mary, my six year old daughter, every night, and most of them were about kings, queens and princesses.

To study

This small study shows the queen’s angular head perforated with a single hole in place of the eyes, her slender face has been widely worked and striped adding texture and depth to the surface. The queen’s head used in the completed group sculpture was much softer and less angular than her preparatory studies. In the present work, Moore’s working process is laid bare as he experiments with both form and surface. Each marks a permanent memory of the artist’s touch, the work presented has its own beauty and serves as a key insight into the development of an idea. One of the casts is held in the public collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, a gift from Dr and Mrs Max Stern in 1984. The plaster is held by the Henry Moore Foundation. This work was created in 1952 and cast in 1959 in an edition of two plus an artist’s proof. It is estimated between £ 50,000 and £ 80,000. See the video of the work here: https://youtu.be/GoN5Oul3vHU

Technical

Other prominent British sculptors featured in the sale include several works by esteemed sculptor Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003). Walking Masked Figures VIII demonstrates Chadwick’s combination of timeless architectural forms with elements of human, animal and mechanical. By the 1960s Chadwick was experimenting with casting bronze, and by the 1970s he had established a visible vocabulary of gender differentiation – triangular or diamond heads for women and square or rectangular heads for men. Additionally, the technique of adding polished facets to his figures both added texture and accentuated specific parts of the anatomy, as seen in Walking masked figures VIII. Created in bronze, it was produced in 1980 and cast in a numbered edition of 9. It is estimated between £ 40,000 and £ 60,000.

The enduring quality and appeal of Chadwick’s work means that he remains a household name recognized. In 1964 he received a CBE, and later in 1984 he was appointed Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters in France. In 2001 he was appointed Principal Academician at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. His work is housed in major collections and galleries around the world, including the Tate Gallery in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. See the video on this work here: https://youtu.be/FRe0_K7okY4

Fragility

Elsewhere in the sale is a bronze figure titled Pilgrim by Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993) a signature subject for this renowned sculptor, embodying the strength of the masculine form, alongside the heroism and the fragility of the man.

In 1984, Frink explained in his recieved catalog, ‘What I have tried to make clear in my sculptures over the past five years is how feeling, expression, even strength and energy, has to be beneath the surface. The outer skin can define more or less conventional features, but a second glance should indicate the complex tension of the nerve endings and the reflexes of anticipation of something about to happen.

Pilgrim encapsulates all of these things – a male standing with his feet planted on the ground, but frozen in step. Created in bronze in 1983, the work is estimated between £ 15,000 and £ 25,000. See the video on the works here: https://youtu.be/bWhBzhQaT0E

Model

The sale also includes a bronze statue of former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), which is the smallest model of the one now in Parliament Square, London. The figure was created by British sculptor Ivor Roberts-Jones (1916-1996) who, winning the commission, went on to create the work which still stands proudly in one place.

In 1970, the Royal Commission on Fine Arts (whose members included Henry Moore and John Piper), approached nine sculptors to compete for the commission of the Winston Churchill monument in Parliament Square. Two of them ; Ivor Roberts-Jones and Oscar Nemon were shortlisted and invited to submit revised proposals. In November 1970, the Commission had chosen Roberts-Jones as its sculptor. The completed statue was unveiled in Parliament Square in 1973 by Lady Churchill, along with a speech by Queen Elizabeth II.

The current figure was cast by the Meridian Foundry from a model made at the same time as the monumental work Place du Parlement and measures 52 cm. Roberts-Jones kept the first 100 casts for his own clients, the remainder being donated to subscribers of The Collected works by Winston Churchill by the Library of Imperial History in London. The current work was purchased directly from Roberts-Jones by the current owner’s husband. It is estimated between £ 60,000 and £ 80,000.

To consult the complete catalog online, or to find out more about the other sculptures on sale, click here.

See also: British contemporary artist selected to create live sculpture commission at Expo 2020


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