Shelter Drawing: Underground Study, 1940
Signed and dated lower right 'Moore 40'
Gouache, brush and grey wash, coloured wax crayons, pen and black ink over pencil on paper
4 7/8 x 7 in, 12.3 x 17.7 cm
Henry Moore filled a number of, now seminal, sketchbooks with the figures he witnessed sheltering in the tunnels of the London Underground during the Blitz. In contrast to images made...
Henry Moore filled a number of, now seminal, sketchbooks with the figures he witnessed sheltering in the tunnels of the London Underground during the Blitz. In contrast to images made by war artists in the trenches of the First World War, this series focused upon the Homefront and the terrifying siege by the Luftwaffe. ‘Shelter Drawing: Underground Study’ from 1940 is one of these haunting yet iconic images that propelled Moore’s reputation, and brought him fame both at home and internationally.
Moore was fascinated by the vulnerable crowds lying on the platforms, clinging to each other in the dark. Returning to the shelters again and again, he sketched the figures he saw in a variety of media over several months. Moore recalled his witness of the scene for the first time “I had never seen so many reclining figures, and even the train tunnels seemed to be like holes in my sculpture. Amid the grim tension, I noticed groups of strangers formed together into intimate groups and children asleep within feet of the passing trains”.
With the outbreak of the war Moore abandoned sculpture for drawing, but his sketches still retain a strong sculptural plasticity. Using the wax resist technique discovered shortly before the war, Moore highlights the forms of the lying figures before applying washes of ink to intensify the contrast of light and shadow. Adding touches of pencil, pen and colour Moore creates further definition to the bodies that are desperately huddled together on the ground.
When Moore showed these astonishing drawings to the chairman of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee, Sir Kenneth Clark, they were quickly recognised for their importance as symbols of the endurance of the British public. Clark eagerly appointed Moore an official war artist and commissioned further drawings between the autumn of 1940 and spring of 1941, which are now considered some of the most important output of the WAAC scheme. These sketchbooks mark a short, but crucially important moment in Moore’s oeuvre.
'Shelter Drawing' previously belonged to the renowned collectors and philanthropists Harry and Mary Anderson. Their outstanding collection of 20th century art, including the present work, was displayed at the exhibition Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2000.
Mrs. Andrew Carnduff Ritchie, Connecticut (until at least 1973)
Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, Inc., New York
Collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson (acquired in 1974)
Christie's, New York, 16 November 2018, lot 615 (sold by the above collectors)
Stanford University Museum of Art, Twentieth-Century Drawings from the Anderson Collection: Auguste Rodin to Elizabeth Murray, November 1988-February 1989, illus. p.7 and 29, no.14
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection, October 2000-January 2001, illus. p.375-376, no.186 (with incorrect medium).
A. Garrould, ed., Henry Moore: Complete Drawings, 1940-1949, Aldershot, 2001, vol. 3, p.79, no.AG 40.86, illus.