An original drawing/watercolour by the 20th-century sculptor and painter, Henry Moore (1898-1986), purchased by the current owner in a charity shop 20 years ago, is set to sell for thousands in a sale by London auction house Forum Auctions.
The work was believed to be a print by the artist, but when the owner took it to a routine valuation at Forum auctions, it was taken out of its frame and found to be an original drawing/watercolour by the famed artist, complete with his signature.
In order to verify it Forum Auctions International Head of Modern & Contemporary Art, Alexander Hayter, worked closely with the Henry Moore Foundation, who hold the archive of Moore’s work and are the authority on authenticating his works. The research by the foundation has taken two years and the results are conclusive. The drawing/watercolour will be included in the artist’s forthcoming catalogue raisonné (a published catalogue of an artist’s entire portfolio during their lifetime) and is listed in the Henry Moore Foundation’s archives under 2022.15. The work depicts one of Moore’s favourite themes, the subject of mother and child (seated), which can be seen across his oeuvre and interestingly is painted on both sides, which is highly unusual.
Commenting on this exciting discovery Alexander Hayter, International Head of Modern & Contemporary Art at Forum Auctions, said: “We are delighted to offer this wonderful, newly discovered double-sided drawing from circa 1947-49 depicting one of Henry Moore’s most recognisable themes: ‘Mother and Child Seated’. Discovered during a valuation, the present owner had assumed that the work she owned was “just a print” and was shocked when told it was an original drawing. Unknown to art scholars, the Henry Moore Foundation conducted almost 2 years of research, and recently confirmed that the work is indeed by Britain’s greatest sculptor and has added it to their catalogue raisonné of his works on paper.”
The drawings on both sides are in Moore’s trademark mixture of inks, watercolour and wax crayon. One side features four bold, highly worked depictions (studies) of Mother and Child Seated and the other is a delicate depiction of a single version of the image in hues of yellow and blue. The drawings were created between 1947 and 1949 and depict the affectionate gestures of a mother with her child from four different angles and poses, with the child moving playfully as Moore captures each perspective. On the reverse is a larger study of the pair portrayed with a muted colour palette of pale green, yellow and a translucent purple wash, with a focus on the main contours of the body and subtle light needed to create their silhouette.
Henry Moore was born in 1898 in Castleford, a small mining town in Yorkshire, England. He initially trained as a teacher but had always had a secret passion to become a sculptor. When the First World War broke out he joined the army and in 1919 thanks to an ex-serviceman’s grant, he was finally able to focus on becoming an artist by attending Leeds School of Art and then the Royal College of Art in London. Throughout the 1920s he worked hard to establish his reputation as a sculptor. At the same time Moore studied the works and techniques of past great sculptors in history, as well as those of his contemporaries.
By the 1930s he was one of the most important sculptors in Europe. However, when his Hampstead home and studio was bombed at the outbreak of World War II Moore had to stop sculpting, so he switched his attention to drawing. During this time he sketched those sheltering in the London underground during the Blitz raids (1940-41) and mastered the technique of using wax crayon resist with watercolour and ink washes. The wax resist allowed Moore to play with light and dark, capturing the shapes of figures in the shadows.
‘Mother and Child’ is one of Moore’s most iconic motifs and his increased focus on the subject is notable during the war period. In 1944, he completed a commission of Madonna and Child for St Matthew’s Church, Northampton. The focus on the subject was also marked by two major events in the artist’s life, his mother’s tragic death in 1944 and within two years, the birth of his only daughter, Mary. It was also around this time that the family relocated to Perry Green, Hertfordshire and his new studios were set in a countryside idyll of bright light and open space. In the recently discovered drawings you can see that Moore has moved away from the haunting evocation of fragility found in the earlier shelter series and instead has embraced warmth and joy in its study of the unspoken and intimate bond shared between mother and child.
Four Studies for Seated Mother and Child and Mother and Child (on reverse) will be offered in The British Sale at Forum Auction on December 14. It carries a conservative estimate of £20,000-£30,000.