Henry Moore - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Thursday, March 3, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'Out of an exaggerated respect for the material, I was reducing the power of the form.' —Henry Moore

    A Distinguished Provenance 

    Coming to auction for the first time from the collection of American artist and esteemed collector Lilliam H. Florsheim, the provenance of this Family Group is unparalleled. A prominent patron of the arts, Florsheim possessed a keen eye, and her collection included notable works by Barbara Hepworth, Naum Gabo, Jean Arp, and Henry Moore. A sculptor herself, Florsheim began studying in the late 1940s, not long after the present work was first conceived. After a period of more academic training, she found herself drawn to abstraction, enrolling at Chicago’s Institute of Design in 1951. Working well into her 80s, her sensitivity to materials and intuitive sense of form draws comparison to Moore’s own. Florsheim’s plexiglass works have been exhibited widely over the years and are represented in important private collections and The Art Institute of Chicago. 


    Lillian H. Florsheim in her studio. Image courtesy of the Lillian Florsheim Estate

    Henry Moore and The Family Group


    One of British sculptor Henry Moore’s most beloved and enduring motifs, the Family Group brings together key formal and thematic elements that have come to define the sculptor’s prodigious output. The quintessential image of family unity and harmony, in the present work two parents are presented frontally, an older child standing between the legs of the father, while a small infant sits playfully on its mother’s lap. Executed with a masterful sense of compositional balance, the mother sits to the left of the father, their bent legs perfectly mirroring one another while the positioning of the softly shaped children one above the other creates a subtle upward diagonal force that charges the piece with a sense of vitality and motion. 

    So central was this motif to Moore’s thinking during these years that he returned to it again and again across drawings and sculpture. Completing over 14 different sculptural variations on the Family Group, Moore also created 4 monumental versions of family groups, one of which – still installed at the Barclay School in Stevenage – is significant as Moore’s first ever large-scale bronze sculpture, formally commissioned by Hertfordshire County Council in 1947. 

    Expanding the composition to include two children, the present work is often considered as one of the more complex versions of this theme, a fact that is greatly complemented by Moore’s less naturalistic depiction of the figures here. Adopting a more fluid treatment of form, this version of the Family Group highlights the important dialogue that Moore established with his international contemporaries notably the undulating lines, hollows and biomorphic shapes that dominated Pablo Picasso’s work in the 1930s. Although a relatively new medium to him at this point, Moore’s command of bronze here also lends the piece a softness and mutability that speaks to the emotive power of his subject. Particularly apparent here in the softly rounded forms of the heads and sloping line of the shoulders, the elegant square void in the father’s chest and rounded cavity in the mother’s right breast gives weight to Moore’s comment that ‘if both abstract and human elements are welded together in a work, it must have a fuller, deeper meaning.’i 


    Pablo Picasso, Woman in an Armchair, 1932, Musée Picasso, Paris. Image: Bridgeman Images, Artwork: © Succession Picasso / DACS, London 2022

    A History of the Family Group  


    As Moore described in a letter to The Museum of Modern Art curator Dorothy Miller in 1951 shortly after this version was cast, it was Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius who first discussed the idea of a family group with Moore in the 1930s as part of a progressive school project spearheaded by Henry Morris. As the Director for Education in Cambridgeshire, Morris had enlisted Gropius to design an ambitious project for a ‘Village College’ in Impington, which would not only offer education for children, but facilities accessible to the wider community, including a lecture theatre, and sleeping accommodation for families should the need arise. It was Gropius who approached Moore with the idea of creating a large sculpture especially for the project, and Moore eventually suggested a family group as image that best encapsulated the spirit and vision of the school. Sadly a lack of funds, the departure of Gropius for America and, eventually, the onset of World War II all conspired to ensure that the project was all but forgotten until 1944, when Morris approached Moore once again. 


    Drawing and Sculpture

    'The Family Group ideas were all generated by drawings.' —Henry Moore  The Family Group works especially highlight the fundamental relationship of drawing to Moore’s sculptural practice, a point emphasised by Moore himself in conversation with the late and highly esteemed critic David Sylvester where he identified the direct relationship between the resulting sculptures and his drawing practice. In addition to also having recently lost his mother, Moore became a parent himself in 1946, no doubt intensifying his feelings on this emotionally charged subject. Moore made many preparatory drawings of families in a variety of different arrangements and configurations during this period, several of which were then modelled in clay before being cast in bronze. Filling nearly two sketchbooks with drawings of variations on the family group theme, Moore found ways, not only of developing his compositional ideas, but of ‘sorting them out.’ii A sketch included on a drawing titled Family Groups: Ideas for Sculpture from 1944 highlights the central role that preparatory sketches played in this respect, clearly echoing the arrangement and presentation of the figures in the present work. 


    Henry Moore, Family Groups: Ideas for Sculpture, 1944, Private Collection. Image: Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation, Artwork: © The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / www.henry-moore.org 2022

    In addition to this, the intervening years between the original Impington project and the casting of this variation of the theme in 1946 had witnessed a particular concentration of Moore’s drawing practice, including his highly celebrated Shelter Drawings. Featuring tender scenes of families huddled together during the many bomb raids endured by Londoners during the Blitz, Moore’s appointment as an Official War Artist led him to focus particularly on enduring images of love and protection, extended in the family group sketches and resulting sketches in their optimistic promise of a better future. Moore’s own family unit was indirectly threatened by the war in 1940 when their Hampstead home was hit by shrapnel. Leaving London for a quiet hamlet in Hertfordshire, Moore and his wife built a family home where they lived, worked, and raised their daughter in peace. 


    Collector’s Digest

    •    Family Group was first cast in 1946, the same year The Museum of Modern Art in New York mounted a major retrospective of the sculptor’s work, it was only 2 years later in 1948 that Moore was awarded first prize for sculpture at the Venice Biennale, the highest acknowledgement of his status as a leading post-war artist on an international stage. 

    •    Examples of Moore’s sculptures can be found in the permanent collections of major international institutions including The Tate, London, The Guggenheim Museum in New York, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. His work can also still be enjoyed in public parks and spaces across the world. 


    i Henry Moore, quoted in Philip James, ed., Henry Moore on Sculpture, London, 1966, p. 72.
    ii Henry Moore in ‘Henry Moore Talking to David Sylvester’, 7 June 1963, transcript of Third Programme, broadcast BBC Radio, 14 July 1963, Tate Archive TGA 200816, p.13.

    • Provenance

      Reid & Lefevre, Ltd., London
      Lillian H. Florsheim, Chicago (acquired from the above on 15 February 1957)
      Thence by descent from the above to the present owner in 1988

    • Exhibited

      London, The Tate Gallery, Sculpture and Drawings by Henry Moore, 2 May - 29 July 1951, no. 161 (terracotta example exhibited)
      New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Henry Moore. 60 Years of His Art, 14 May - 25 September 1983, pp. 62, 123 (another cast exhibited and illustrated, p. 63)
      Long Island, Hofstra Museum, Hofstra University; Pittsburgh, Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University; Philadelphia, Arthur Ross Gallery, University of Pennsylvania; The Baltimore Art Museum, Mother and Child: The Art of Henry Moore, 10 September 1987 - 17 April 1988, no. 30, p. 52 (another cast exhibited and illustrated, p. 53)

    • Literature

      David Sylvester, ed., Henry Moore. Sculpture and Drawings 1921-1948, vol. 1, London, 1957, no. 235, pp. 14, 278 (terracotta example illustrated, pl. 265, p. 150)
      Will Grohmann, The Art of Henry Moore, London, 1960, no. 121, p. 8 (terracotta example illustrated, n.p.)
      Ionel Jianou, Henry Moore, Paris, 1968, no. 222, p. 75 (terracotta example listed; titled as Groupe de Famille)
      John Hedgecoe and Henry Moore, Henry Moore, London, 1968, n.p. (another cast illustrated, p. 162)
      Robert Melville, Henry Moore. Sculpture and Drawings 1921-1969, London, 1970, no. 343, p. 352 (another cast illustrated, n.p.; terracotta example, no. 354, p. 353, illustrated, n.p.)
      Giulio Carlo Argan, Henry Moore, Milan, 1971, no. 81, p. 38 (another cast illustrated, n.p.; terracotta example, no. 83, illustrated, n.p.; titled as Gruppo di famiglia)
      Josep Iglesias del Marquet, Henry Moore y El Inquietante Infinito, Barcelona, 1979, no. 33 (terracotta example illustrated, n.p.; titled as Grupo familiar)
      David Mitchinson, ed., Henry Moore Sculpture, London, 1981, no. 178, p. 310 (terracotta example illustrated, p. 95)
      David Sylvester, ed., Henry Moore. Complete Sculpture 1921-1948, vol. 1, London, 1988, no. 235, p. 14 (terracotta example illustrated, pl. 265, p. 150)
      John Hedgecoe, Henry Moore. Une vision monumentale, Cologne, 2005, no. 237, p. 210 (another cast illustrated; titled as Scène de famille)

Property from the Estate of Lillian Florsheim


Family Group

14.2 x 11.2 x 7.5 cm (5 5/8 x 4 3/8 x 2 7/8 in.)
Conceived in 1945 and cast in bronze by 1957. This work is from an edition of 6 plus 1 artist's proof cast circa 1945 and a second edition of 9 plus 1 artist's proof which was cast between 1955-1957.

This work is recorded in the archives of the Henry Moore Foundation.

Full Cataloguing

£300,000 - 400,000 ‡♠

Sold for £403,200

Contact Specialist

Rosanna Widén
Senior Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4060

Olivia Thornton
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+ 44 20 7318 4099

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 3 March 2022