Henry Moore OM, CH

Woman Seated in the Underground

1941

Medium
Gouache, ink, watercolour and crayon on paper
Dimensions
Support: 483 x 381 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee 1946
Reference
N05707

Display caption

Although many of the Shelter Drawings showed groups of people, some concentrated on individuals. In this
picture a lone woman sits apart from
the other shelterers. Swathed in layers
of clothing, she stares out of the picture, anxiously clasping her hands. This sense
of tension is heightened by the abrupt jump from foreground to background
and the network of nervous, scratchy
lines that describe the figure.

 

The apparent absence of period detail
led some commentators to interpret
such figures as timeless symbols of fear, vulnerability and endurance.

 

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

N05707 WOMAN SEATED IN THE UNDERGROUND 1941

Inscr. ‘Moore 41’ b.r.
Pen, chalk and gouache, 19×15 (48×38).
Presented by the War Artists' Advisory Committee 1946.
Exh: Britain at War, New York, and Canadian and U.S. tour, 1941–4; New York, Chicago and San Francisco, 1946–7 (86, repr. p.70); British Council tour, Australia, 1947–8 (33, repr.); Berlin (repr.) and Vienna, 1951 (67).
Lit: Neumann, 1959, pp.80–3, repr. pl.49.
Repr: Read, 1944, pl.187; Sweeney, 1946, p.70; Argan, 1948, pl.27.

See N05706. The Shelter Sketch-Books include a drawing for this figure, omitting the receding tunnel on the right (repr. Editions Poetry, 1944).

Neumann sees the seated figure as the female archetype, which is always predominant in Moore's work, in a new spectral aspect inspired by the war, ‘The Great Goddess manifesting herself as mistress of death’; the idea is paralleled in another shelter drawing entitled ‘Three Fates’ (private collection; see Neumann, op. cit., pp.84–5, repr. pl.51; also repr. Read, op. cit., pl.184a, and Read and Sylvester, I, 1957, p.231).

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II