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Henry Moore War Paintings

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Henry Moore War Painting

Tube Shelter Perspective Liverpool Street Extension by Henry Moore 1941. Ink, watercolor, wax, and pencil on paper.

Tate © Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation
The British artist Henry Moore is most famous for his sculptures, but also known for his ink, wax, and watercolor paintings of people sheltering in London's Underground stations during the Second World War. Moore was an Official War Artist, and the 2010 Henry Moore Exhibition at the Tate Britain Gallery has a room devoted to these. Made between the autumn of 1940 and the summer of 1941, his depictions of sleeping figures huddled in the train tunnels captured a sense of anguish that transformed his reputation and influenced popular perception of the Blitz. His work of the 1950s reflected the aftermath of war and the prospect of further conflict.

Moore was born in Yorkshire and studied at Leeds School of Art in 1919, after serving in the First World War. In 1921 he won a scholarship to the Royal College in London. He later taught at the Royal College as well as the Chelsea School of Art. From 1940 Moore lived at Perry Green in Hertfordshire, now home to the Henry Moore Foundation. At the 1948 Venice Biennale, Moore won the International Sculpture Award.

I went to see the Tate Henry Moore Exhibition in early March 2010, and enjoyed the chance to see Moore's smaller works, plus sketches and studies as he developed ideas. Not only do forms have to be considered from all angles in a piece of sculpture, but the effect of light and shadows cast within the piece too. I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of "working notes" and "finished pieces", and the chance to finally see some of his famous Underground paintings in real life. They're larger than I'd thought, and more powerful. The medium, with the splotchy ink, really suits the subject.

There was one framed piece of paper of thumbnails of ideas for paintings. Each a couple of inches, watercolor over ink, with a title. It felt as if it were done on a day Moore was consolidating a series of ideas. Tiny holes in each corner suggested to me that he must've had it pinned up on a board at some stage.

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