About this artwork
English sculptor Henry Moore was already well respected in modern art circles when, in 1940, art historian Kenneth Clark asked him to become an Official War Artist to document Britain’s efforts in World War II. At first Moore refused; however, soon after he himself had to hide in an underground subway tunnel during a German bombing raid, he accepted Clark’s offer. Moore’s first government assignment was to capture graphically the fear, pain, and anguish he witnessed in the tunnels, resulting in a powerful series of bomb-shelter drawings.
By the end of summer 1941, Moore’s interest in producing shelter drawings had waned, and his friend Herbert Read, a philosopher and writer, suggested he depict coal miners who, because their work was crucial to the war effort, were called “Britain’s Underground Army.” The son of a miner, Moore felt an immediate connection to this new subject, and he returned to his hometown, Castleford, to begin the series. Years later he described the brutality of mining conditions: “If one were to describe what Hell might be like, this would do.” After completing one sketchbook in the mine, Moore returned to his studio, where he filled two additional notebooks with images of miners; the Art Institute’s drawings were removed from one such book.
Moore’s concentration on miners allowed him to focus on two themes he had not yet explored : men and the figure in motion. Previously, he had depicted principally women and children and the figure at rest. This shift is illustrated in this sketch; constricted to narrow, low tunnels, ranged one above the other, miners walk, bend, and use picks and shovels. Though his figures are not static, Moore acknowledged that their actions were so constrained by the space so that they could use only the top half of their bodies: “the lower part is stuck [to the floor of the mine] as it were to the pedestal.”
- Currently Off View
- Prints and Drawings
- Henry Moore
- Pen and brush and black ink, and brush and blue and gray washes, with white, black, yellow, and red crayon, with clear wax resist, over traces of graphite, squared in graphite on off-white wove paper
- Inscribed, top center, in pen and black ink: "Men walking bent down—Stooping—walking with lamp between legs"; verso, center, in graphite: "3 (left)"
- 252 × 175 mm
- Gift of Dorothy Braude Edinburg to the Harry B. and Bessie K. Braude Memorial Collection
- © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London