Henry Moore's reputation as the pre-eminent modern sculptor is grounded in the essential humanity of his works, regardless of their scale. His evolution as a modernist followed familiar pathways of experimentation: he first found inspiration in the antique, then allied himself with Surrealism, and then embraced "pure" abstraction. Like other artists before and after him, however, he found abstraction to have its limitations and he returned in his later work to the human form in various prototypical circumstances, one of which is a nude woman, reclining. Moore would continue to manipulate this subject, and in the early 1960s Moore became fascinated with the possibilities of separating the elements of a reclining figure.
As Moore himself commented on the genesis of the Two Piece Reclining Figure series:
I did the first one in two pieces almost without intending to. But after I had done it, then the second one became a conscious idea. I realised what an advantage a separated two- piece composition could have in relating figures to landscape. Knees and breasts are mountains.
Once these two parts become separated you don't expect it to be a naturalistic figure; therefore you can justifiably make it look like a landscape or a rock. If it's a single figure, you can guess what it's going to be like. If it's in two pieces there's a bigger surprise, you have more unexpected views; therefore the special advantage over painting--of having the possibility of many different views--is more fully explored. The front view doesn't enable you to foresee the back view. As you move round it, the two parts overlap or they open up and there's space in between.
Sculpture is like a journey. You have a different view as you return. The three-dimensional view is full of surprises in a way that a two-dimensional world could never be (quoted in C. Lake, "Henry Moore's World", Atlantic Monthly, Boston, January 1962).
The smooth twist of the figure's torso and dynamic appendages underscore what Roger Fry, the critic whom Moore most admired, said, ". . .the greatest art seems to concern itself with the universal aspects of natural form, to be the least pre-occupied with particulars" (R. Fry, "Retrospect", Vision and Design, p. 195).
Two Piece Reclining Figure: Points
Signed and numbered 'Moore 2/7' (on the top of the base)
Height: 90 in. (228.6 cm.) Length: 143 in. (364.9 cm.) Depth: 72 in. (182.7 cm.)
A. Bowness, ed., Henry Moore Sculpture and Drawings, London, 1977, vol. 4, p. 56, no. 606 (another cast illustrated, pls. 136-141).
D. Mitchinson, ed., Henry Moore Sculpture, Barcelona, 1981, p. 314 (another cast illustrated in color, p. 232, pl. 500; another cast illustrated, p. 233, pl. 501).
Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by the late owner, July 1973.