Room 5: Wartime
The 1930s was a hugely innovative and productive period for Moore. But when war broke out, he abandoned sculpture for drawing. Nonetheless, the themes that Moore had explored earlier – the Uncanny, claustrophobia, apprehension, the violated body – can be found in his wartime drawings. Moore’s Shelter Drawings, which became official ‘war art’, transformed his reputation, bringing success at home and internationally. They depict a mass of almost skeletal figures huddled together in a nocturnal underworld. Angered by their poverty, Moore described the crowds he had witnessed sheltering from bombing raids in the London Underground as “the most pathetic, sordid, & disheartening sight”. Nevertheless, many felt that Moore’s drawings of generalised masses of anonymous figures transformed London’s poor into heroic figures and the uncertainty of their situation into stoic resignation. The coalmining drawings formed another significant series. Commissioned by the Artists Advisory Committee, Moore chose to observe miners at the coalface in Wheldale Colliery, where his late father had worked. Though such studies of the male figure are unique in his art, the sense of claustrophobia had been seen before and the theme of the vulnerable and battered body would reappear in Moore’s sculptures of the following decade.