Mother and Child, Henry Moore
In 1933 Robert Sainsbury was a young accountant, twenty-seven years old and working his way up in the family firm, when he met Henry Moore for the first time and bought this Mother and Child to put in his hall. By his own account, almost nobody liked it. Even Sainsbury’s most sophisticated friends found something freakish and threatening in the mother figure’s tiny alert tubular head, massive limbs and rearing rounded left shoulder.
Moore, who had recently married, always said he picked his wife “just for her shoulders”. He had looked hard at Aztec figures, as well as at the work of radical contemporaries in Paris, and his Mother and Child of 1932 spoke a sculptural language still largely incomprehensible at the time in this country. The scale and poise of the head, the body’s compact energy, the soft brown stain flowing diagonally across the flat, freckled, greeny-grey plane of the back, the scoop and twist of hip, belly and forearms, even the limpet-like infant clamped to the sloping boulder of its mother’s breast: all added up initially to a public affront. It took courage to buy as well as to make this monolithic image of maternal power and serenity. If you had to pick a single piece to stand for the whole – to sum up the lucid, resolute, confident sensibility expressed from the start in the Sainsbury Collection – Moore’s Mother and Child could be it.
Facts & figures
Mother and Child, 1932, Henry Moore (1898-1986). England. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 82.
Green Hornton stone, beads. h. 91.4 cm. Acquired 1933.
Other collection highlights
Dream Amphora, Jean Arp
A sculpture of detached beauty, created shortly before Nazi invasion forced Arp’s flight from France to Switzerland
A mysterious chubby figure from ancient Mexico thought to be associated with the central highland site of Las Bocas
Fijian bird dish
This elegant shallow bowl was apparently created for drinking an intoxicating drink made from the root of the pepper plant that is still regularly drunk all over Fiji