Frieze London Remains a Harbinger of Contemporary Art Trends
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The Modern Form: Property from the Collection of Betty and Stanley Sheinbaum
This work is recorded in the archives of the Henry Moore Foundation.
From the Catalogue:
The Universal Form: Henry Moore and Alberto Giacometti in America.
Henry Moore’s impact on the post-war American art scene was unprecedented for a British sculptor. The artist’s notoriety in the United States can be traced back to his inclusion in the landmark 1936 exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art, organised by Alfred Barr at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and his first US show in 1943 at the Buchholz Gallery, New York, whereby Moore’s stateside dealer, Curt Valentin, showed a selection of graphic works by the British artist. The relationship between Valentin and Moore blossomed and the dealer soon became the sculptor’s trusted friend and ally in America. A number of Moore’s most celebrated and monumental sculptures spent time in America before the Second World War, exemplified by his masterpiece, the Hornton stone Recumbent Figure, now housed in the Tate collection, which travelled to the New York World Fair in 1939, not leaving the Museum of Modern Art garden in New York until after the end of the war in 1948. In the same way, Moore’s elm wood Reclining Figure has been held in the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, since 1939. Despite having a number of his major works in American public and private collections, it was not until Moore’s 1946-1947 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, organised by James Johnson Sweeney, where his reputation found a national foothold in America. Appealing to a new humanitarian hopefulness in the wake of the Second World War, Moore’s sculpture encapsulated a sense of progressive and collective humanism; his work promoted man’s relationship to nature through his organic shapes, whilst his celebrated Shelter Drawings encapsulated the tender resolve of the family unit which clung together through the darkness of wartime, to emerge into the light of a world left shattered by the devastating effects of conflict. Moore’s personality and charm combined with his evocation of both classical and primitive art, led to his popularity with actors, critics, curators and collectors alike. In post-war America, newly built and refurbished cities were designed to be functional and utilitarian, and Moore’s outdoor sculptures became increasingly desirable, as did his smaller maquettes and studies. In the same way, Alberto Giacometti’s widespread fame as a leading force of modern sculpture had reached New York by 1948 with his exhibition at Pierre Matisse’s gallery, the catalogue of which included Jean-Paul Satre’s existentialist essay, ‘The Search for the Absolute’. Purchased between 1959 and 1966, a period of turbulence and civil rights protest in the US, the present works not only demonstrate the exquisite craftsmanship of Moore and Giacometti as modern masters, but also provide enlightened and enriching context as works borne out of a world in international turmoil. As key collectors of progressive and thought-provoking works, Betty and Stanley Sheinbaum’s collection of Moores and Giacometti works is a testament to their devotion to progressive modes of modern representation.
Executed in 1945, Moore’s Three standing figures has come to encapsulate one of Moore’s earliest sculptural triumphs, demonstrating his unrivalled mastery of tension, contemplation and profoundness, captured exquisitely in the medium of bronze. Moore formulated his composition for the sculpture through his Shelter Drawings series which depicted anxious Londoners, draped in blankets and sheets, hiding in London’s subterranean underground system, safe from the threat of bombs and fire above. Kenneth Clark stipulated that Moore’s drawings executed between 1942 and 1946, particularly his drawing Group of Draped Standing Figures, 1942, currently housed in The Art Institute of Chicago, was the ‘crucial drawing’ in Moore’s realisation of the sculpture. (Kenneth Clark, Henry Moore: Drawings, London, 1974, p.119) Initially cast in plaster and subsequently in bronze, the sculpture provided the basis for Moore’s larger Darley Dale sandstone carving initially created with the Museum of Modern Art in mind (Jennifer Powell, ‘Henry Moore and ‘Sculpture in the Open Air’: Exhibitions in London’s Parks’, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, online). Exhibited in 1948 at the Art’s Council of Great Britain’s Open Air Exhibition of Sculpture in Battersea Park, the larger carving has remained in situ after being purchased by the Contemporary Art Society, becoming an iconic and visionary celebration of the tenacious spirit of Londoners during wartime. A selection of Moore’s Shelter Drawings featured in the artist’s 1946 Museum of Modern Art retrospective and an image of the clay model version of the sculpture, owned by the artist, was illustrated in the exhibition catalogue. Simultaneously naturalistic, mysterious and ethereal, Moore’s timeless figures transcend their surroundings, looking out towards the unknown. As Moore stated, ‘They are the expression in sculpture of the group feeling that I was concerned with in the shelter drawings… the bringing together of these three figures involved the creation of a unified human mood. The pervading theme of the shelter drawings was the group sense of communion in the three figures ... I wanted to overlay it with the sense of release, and create figures conscious of being in the open air, they have a lifted gaze, for scanning distances.’ (Henry Moore, quoted in Robert Melville, ed., Sculpture in the Open Air: A Talk by Henry Moore on his Sculpture and its Placing in Open-Air Sites, British Council 1955, Tate, online).
In the same way that Betty Sheinbaum utilised found objects in her own sculpture, so Henry Moore collected organic matter and material to help illustrate his formal ideas and concepts for his sculptural practice. In the present work, Helmet Head No. 4: Interior-Exterior, executed in 1963 and purchased at Leicester Galleries in London, Moore explores the effect of layering varied textures to create a hardened outer shell with a dazzling yet obscured inner element. Modelling the inner form on an animal bone, Moore’s domed outer layer may refer to the armoured helmets worn by soldiers in conflict, while at the same time may relate to the protection afforded a child carried by its mother. As Moore stated ‘the idea of one form inside another form may owe some of its incipient beginnings to my interest at one stage when I discovered armour. I spent many hours in the Wallace Collection, in London, looking at armour’ (Moore, in conversation with David Mitchinson, 1980, transcript reproduced in Alan Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot, 2002, p. 213). Ambiguous in nature, the present work’s protective outer element may also allude to an insect’s outer shell or even a human skeleton, covering its vital organs.
Diverse in meaning, Helmet Head No. 4: Interior-Exterior was exhibited at the landmark exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Henry Moore in Southern California, in 1973. After the 1946 retrospective of Moore’s work travelled to San Francisco, Californian art enthusiasts and particularly Hollywood collectors became engaged with Moore’s practice. As Seldis wrote in accompaniment to the exhibition, ‘To judge by the number of collectors connected with the movie industry who have helped make Southern California an exceptional reservoir of Moore’s work, Hollywood’s appreciation of the artist matches the enthusiasm Moore has for many of its movies… One of the largest collections of Moores in America is owned by Mrs Stanley Sheinbaum, Jack Warner’s daughter’ (Henry J. Seldis, Henry Moore in America, Los Angeles, 1973, pp. 201-202).
Moore’s 1952 work Leaf Figure No. 3. was exhibited at the Art Center in La Jolla in San Diego, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Galleries, Barnsdall Park, a decade prior to being exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibition. Purchased from the esteemed dealer, Eric Estorick in 1959, the present work depicts an organic figure, whose limbs appear to resemble rounded leaf-like forms. Spritely and charismatic, the figure’s body is lengthened, and like Giacometti’s Man Pointing (1947), appears totemic with its small head nestled on top of its elongated body. Drawing upon the extended limbs evident in African, Oceanic and Mayan sculpture, Moore references early examples of primitive art, as well as the natural shapes and materials of objects, which he amassed at his studio and home. Rethinking traditional notions of representation, Moore successfully conveys the lightness of a leaf in the present sculpture through the medium of bronze, a testament to the sculptor’s complete mastery of his materials.
Moore’s Bird was purchased by Betty Sheinbaum in 1961 from Felix Landau Fine Art, a Los Angeles based dealer of Moore’s smaller works in California, acquired at a time when the majority of owned works by Moore in California were primarily bought in New York and London. A nuanced rendering of an avian form, Moore’s shaped bronze conveys a vital sense of movement through the long sweep of the creature’s beak, through to its rounded breast and feathered plumage. Conveying Moore’s ability to capture a creature’s animalistic essence in a static and rigid medium, Bird is exemplary of the artist’s interest in depicting the organic. A year before the execution of the present work, Moore built a terracotta bird table at his home where he would watch a particular crow feed, stating, ‘It had something wrong with its beak and it stood almost horizontally. That bird is why I did this sculpture’ (John Hedgecoe, ed., Henry Moore, London, 1968, p. 405). With other casts of the present work housed in the Tate, London, and the Norton Simon Foundation, Pasadena, Bird perfectly demonstrates Moore’s ability to convey tension through the delicately balanced form, which suggests a moment of stillness before the bird breaks into flight.
Untitled, by Alberto Giacometti reveals the initial workings of the esteemed artist’s celebrated work, a key stage in Giacometti’s formulation of his ideas in preparation for sculptural realisation. The figure’s face appears heavily worked in the manner of the artist’s paintings, creating depth and a sense of three dimensionality on a two-dimensional plane. Almost anatomical in execution, Giacometti explores the characteristics of the figure’s countenance, exaggerating elements of the features to convey drama and intensity. Suggesting a sense of movement through energetic lines, the present work provides an insight into Giacometti’s working process to characterize his figures and realize his sculptural successes.
With their diverse selection of works by prolific 20th century artists, Betty and Stanley Sheinbaum's relentless passion for collecting works from the European modern avant-garde is exemplified in the present grouping. Celebrating both nature and humanity, Moore and Giacometti created works which unified the continents post-World War Two, offering both a critique and sense of optimism to the subsequent generations.
—Courtesy of Phillips
Signature: stamped with the foundry mark 'C. VALSUANI CIRE PERDUE’ on the base
Orange, Chapman College, Henry Moore, 31 January - 14 February 1964 (present lot exhibited)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Henry Moore in Southern California, 2 October - 18 November 1973, no. 21, p. 265 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 85)
David Sylvester, ed., Henry Moore, Complete Sculpture, 1921-1948, London, 1988, vol. 1, no. 258, p. 16 (terracotta version illustrated, p. 164)
Henry J. Seldis, Henry Moore in America, Los Angeles, 1973, no. 21, p. 85 (another example illustrated)
Eric Estorick, London
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner in 1960
Often regarded as the father of modern British sculpture, Henry Moore’s large-scale bronze and marble sculptures can be found in public parks and plazas around the world. Working in various styles and mediums, Moore is perhaps best known for his highly abstract and interpretive renditions of the human figure, often portrayed in the reclining position. He was influenced by Classical, Pre-Columbian, and African art, and by Surrealism; his biomorphic style has been compared that of Salvador Dalí and Jean Arp. Moore was a longtime friend and colleague of fellow sculptor Barabara Hepworth, having met at the Leeds School of Art around 1919. He also admired the work of Constantin Brancusi, whose organic abstract style resonated with Moore’s belief that observation of nature is essential to artistic creation. Moore himself inspired many artists including his former studio assistants Anthony Caro and Richard Wentworth.
British, 1898-1986, Castleford, United Kingdom, based in Much Hadham, United Kingdom
Frieze London Remains a Harbinger of Contemporary Art Trends
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