Head-Turner: 1930s Carving by Henry Moore Stars in Bonhams Modern British Art Sale

Head by Henry Moore carved in ironstone, 1930. 17.7cm / 7in high. Estimate: £2,200,000 - 2,600,000
Art Martin Cid Magazine
Art Martin Cid Magazine

London – A unique female head carved in ironstone by Britain’s greatest modern sculptor, Henry Moore, will star in Bonhams Modern British Art Sale on Tuesday 22 November 2023. A work from early on in Moore’s career, the seven-inch sculpture has an estimate of £2,200,000 – 2,600,000.

Head from 1930, set on a marble base, shows a female head in profile. Its elegant form is carved from ironstone, one of Moore’s favourite materials of this period. Moore’s passion for direct carving is evident together with his desire to allow the natural structures of his materials to dictate his interpretation of human form.

Penny Day, Head of UK and Ireland for Modern British and Irish Art comments, “This exquisite work exemplifies Moore’s ability to surprise and demonstrates a masterly simplification and elegant line. His interest in shape, animals and stone were what he called the ‘vitality of the natural world’. This is an incredibly special and unique piece.”

Mark Hudson, Chief Art Critic of The Independent, writing for Bonhams Magazine observes, “The image of woman in the delicate form of Head (1930) appears more vulnerable and fugitive than in the robust forms of the previous decade. The features appear immersed in some semiconscious state, sleep or rapture, the lips parted, eyes reduced to formalised bulges in the highly polished stone.

“The streamlined, forward-leaning form bears a faint touch of Art Deco and of modernist sculptors who presaged that style, such as Brancusi and Modigliani”, continues Hudson.  “Yet, where their forms tend towards rigid symmetry, Moore’s have a marvellous supple irregularity as he yields to the form of the brown ironstone.”  Read Mark Hudson’s article A head of the curve

Head has been exhibited at both UK and international galleries and featured in a major show on Henry Moore at London’s Tate Britain in 2010.  

Henry Moore O.M, CH.

Henry Moore was born in Castleford, a small mining town in Yorkshire, England in 1898 and the seventh son of a coal miner. He knew he wanted to be a sculptor from an early age but reluctantly trained as a teacher before joining the army during the First World War.  In 1919, thanks to an ex-serviceman’s grant, he realised his ambition to become an artist. He enrolled first at Leeds School of Art, and then the Royal College of Art in London.  In the 1920s, Moore focused on establishing his reputation as a sculptor and by the 1930s he was among the leading avant-garde sculptors in Europe. Moore pioneered a new vision for modern sculpture. He is best known for his monumental bronze sculptures, but he also made carvings, drawings, prints and designed textiles and tapestries. Moore was inspired by the human body and natural forms.

Other artists featured in the November sale include Graham Sutherland, Lynn Chadwick, Ivon Hitchens, Winifred Nicholson, Duncan Grant, and Augustus John.

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