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Sculptural Object, 1960

Sculptural Object provides a telling contrast with Moore’s other piece at Kettle’s Yard, the Head from the late 1920s. Comparison of the two works reveals changes in conception, technique and materials in the artist’s work over a period of thirty-five years. By the early 1960s Moore’s concerns with direct carving had been replaced by the employment of skilled assistants and the enlargement and casting of works, necessary to meet the post-war demand for his monumental sculptures. Although not physically large by contemporary standards, Sculptural Object achieves something of the monumental scale common to related works. It is typical of a period of renewed organic abstraction in the early 1960s, which superseded more recognisable figurative forms while retaining a strong anchor in nature.

Moore frequently used natural objects as a source of inspiration. Animated by the belief that these had universal forms by which everyone is subconsciously conditioned, he regularly took time to study pebbles on beaches and sketch at the Natural History Museum in London. His maquette studio had what he called a ‘library of found objects’, a collection of stones, flints, seashells and bones. Moore was particularly interested in the latter. A bone literally upholds life, supporting weight and tensions, therefore he regarded it as a useful starting point to infuse vitality and strength into the sculptures. He explained this by using the example of the clenching of a fist, describing how “you get … the bones, the knuckles, pushing through, giving a force that, if you open your hand and just have it relaxed, you don’t feel. The parts where from inside you get a sense of pressure of the bone outwards – these for me are the key points.”

Indeed many of Moore’s sculptures were large-scale abstractions of the forms of found objects. There is a remarkable similarity, for example, between the plaster version of Sculptural Object and a bone (part of an animal’s pelvis, circa 8 cm high) preserved in his studio. Held vertical by a cushion of plasticine, the relation of the angled oval hole to the slanting sides and upper protrusion is close to the final sculpture. However, in this the original form was largely reconceived, adding weight and stability by broadening the whole, thickening the limbs and providing the hole with more depth and variety. The transitional phase through which the maquette was enlarged was a plaster ‘sketch-model’, also preserved in Moore’s studio. It is smooth and marked for enlargement to the plaster original (from which the bronze was cast). The working of the surface, with chisel marks more suggestive of stone than bone, was only undertaken at this final stage.

Jim Ede bought Sculptural Object during the summer of 1962. The sources of inspiration and intensely tactile surface coincided with his interests, but it is noticeable that he selected the one work of that period in which the sense of monumentality is invested in a modest size.

Provenance: purchased by H.S. Ede from the artist, August 1962 (one in an edition of 10 unnumbered casts).

Sculpture [HM 2]

Displayed

Bronze on limestone base

465 x 390 x 370 mm

About the artist

Moore was born in Castleford, Yorkshire. In the early 1920s he was influenced by Gaudier-Brzeska and primitive art. During the following decade he was a member of the Seven & Five Society and Unit One, and helped found the British Surrealist movement in 1936. He was an official war artist during the Second World War. A sculptor of major international reputation, he gained many public commissions. His works, whether carved or modelled, show an intimate awareness of natural forms.