Victorian & Edwardian art sale on Tuesday, 15 November 2011 will be headlined by Waiting to Cross by Albert Moore (1841-1893). Estimated at £300,000-500,000, the painting was the artists only contribution to the Grosvenor Gallery exhibition of 1888. It comes to auction following the success of the exhibition The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1890 at the Victorian & Albert Museum in London earlier this year and currently on view at the Musée dOrsay in Paris. The Aesthetic Movement had its own dedicated showplace, namely the Grosvenor Gallery in New Bond Street, which had opened in 1877. It would have shown Moores picture to maximum advantage.
The composition of three female figures standing together with their arms entwined is ordered and harmonious, its formal perfection in alignment with the sensibilities of the Aesthetic Movement. The colour scheme of pale grey and chartreuse is typically sophisticated and Moore relished the abstract patterns formed by the draperies of the robes and the leaves of the trees. Although Moores mature work is often said to be devoid of a narrative element, here the figures are awaiting the arrival of a boat to take them across the water. As one of the girls glances back over her shoulder, she engages the attention of the spectator. Although it is difficult to identify the models who posed for Moores pictures, as he tended to abbreviate their features into a generic classical ideal, it appears that the models for the two women, one dark and the other blonde, are the same as those that feature in one of Moores masterpieces, Midsummer, painted in the previous year.
The entwined poses of the three figures evoke depictions of The Three Graces but it is unlikely that the present painting depicts any specific mythological characters. By giving the picture the title Waiting to Cross, rather than a Latin or Greek name, Moore has underlined its modernity.
*Pre-sale estimates do not include buyers premium