1938 by Henry Moore
Recumbent Figure would have probably been one of the last of Moore’s sculptures to come from the atmosphere of Modernist creativity and optimism before the shadows of the Second World War came to cloud productivity. It is no wonder that Moore’s sculptures of simplicity and grace took a back seat to his harrowing scratches of drawing London in the Blitz (see postcard 197), but we see none of this angst in the placidly calm face of this figure before horror struck. Recumbent Figure is one of Moore’s cleverest sculptures, in that it conjures the very being of a body as it leans back despite, or perhaps because of, its abstraction. With the figure’s leisurely long and smoothly honed limbs, Moore makes his stone breath with the relief of a body relaxed. The body becomes about support, about the framing and comfort of form. There is no need to represent the internal complication of the body, this is left as an empty space, as the curves of arms and outstretched legs become the agents of form. Arms morph into legs, the strong right angle of a forearm climbing upwards into the bold but delicate bend of the knee. There is an energy to these limbs, surges of power in their strength of unity as they roll into one another, symbolised by the harmony of the mottled markings of the stone. Moore took great care in choosing his stone and this Green Horton, with its mustard markings and its layering of life, takes on the personality of this figure – warmly expressive like the word recumbent itself.