Upright Motive No. 5


England 1898-1986
Upright Motive No. 5 1955-56 Bronze

By the time of his death in 1986, Henry Moore was a worldwide celebrity acknowledged as one of the most influential sculptors of the modernist era. He is best-known for semi-abstracted monumental figures in stone, wood and bronze. The earliest being inspired by Moore’s encounter in Paris in the 1920s with so-called ‘primitive’ art, specifically Mayan stone figures of the angular Chac Mool type.

While reclining or seated figures and mother-and-child groups are Moore’s signature subjects, his oeuvre includes more fully abstracted forms inspired not so much by the human form as by natural objects such as flints, bones, skulls, pieces of driftwood and shells.

Moore’s early series of Upright Motive bronzes from the mid-fifties represent a notable departure from the familiar reclining figure motif. Instead, these columnar forms recall prehistoric standing stones or obelisks. With knobbly protrusions and curious concavities these works hover between abstraction and figuration.

Moore attributed the inspiration for the Upright Motives to a visit to Italy in 1955 in response to a commission for a major sculpture for a new building in Venice. ‘A lone Lombardy poplar growing behind the building convinced me a vertical work would act as the correct counterfoil to the horizontal rhythm of the building’ Moore later recalled. ‘I started by balancing different forms one above the other—with results rather like North American totem poles’.

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