Henry Moore


I am finding it difficult to get on with my OCA studies for lots of reasons but in the meantime I have been doing lots of research on the web and looking at art books to try to get my head around my apparent drawing block.

Browsing this book on drawing that my mother had lent my daughter for her exam studies, I came across mention of bracelet shading.  This is a method of using parallel lines to show the contours of the drawn form.  I then got side-tracked into looking up Henry Moore’s drawings because he was mentioned as using this technique.  I knew he was well known for his sculpture work but I had not come across any of his other art work before and I was drawn to these images of sleepers in the Underground from WWII.  Apparently he was commissioned as a war artist during this time.

I have to say I do not know anything about Henry Moore and his inspiration but when I look at these images of people using the London Underground tunnels as a shelter from the air raids I find I am reminded of contemporary concentration camps and even current scenes of refugee camps and shelters in war torn and disaster areas of the world.  The figures often seem to have a skeletal quality, as if I am looking at a lifeless form, even though I am sure the images are supposed to represent the living.   Perhaps that is something to do with Moore’s study of the anatomy of the body for his sculpture work.  I also get a sense of despair and resignation from the way the people lie with hunched shoulders, anguished faces and with their backs facing us.

Moore would make brief sketches in situ and work them up later at home.  This is how he described what he found at the time:  “poor looking women and children waiting to be let in to take shelter for the night – and the dirty old bits of blankets and clothes and pillows stretched out on the Tube platforms – it’s about the most pathetic, sordid and disheartening sight I hope to see.”  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/3655235/How-Henry-Moore-dug-for-victory.html)

I must now find out more about Moore’s background and inspiration, intriguing.


4 responses »

  1. Bracelet shading… Perhaps I can throw some light here, the odd thing being that I have just mentioned Philip Rawson in an email to a friend. I’m sure it is a general term but it crops up in Rawson’s classical account of Drawing, reference below. In his chapter 3, Technical Methods, he discusses a wide range of drawing strategies, not only for figuration but also for lyrical and gestural effects etc. pn pp. 106-9, he discusses the use of line, which is itself 2-dimensional on the page, to represent 3-dimensional form. I can’t quote everything he says here about bracelet shading, but he begins: “Perhaps the most interesting and familiar development of this resource [of using line for 3D representation] is in the style of ‘bracelet shading’ which was taken up from the work of fifteenth-century medieval draughtsmen… and which later became the standard equipment of all European engravers [like Dürer and others]…” And so on, at scholarly length, bless him.

    Perhaps Moore developed his use of the technique from his combined experience of sculpture and printmaking. It may have seemed a strong way of asserting on paper the kind of 3-dimensionality that is important to his sculpture. But yes, daisymarmalade (?), these shelter drawings of his are disturbing and not universally liked.

    Rawson’s book is also not a hot favourite. He was writing some time ago, and his ideas are usually relegated to the ‘formalist’ bin. I don’t care, I read him too long ago to be affected by that, and prefer to admire his open-ness to all kinds of cultures of drawing.

    Reference: Rawson, Philip. 1987. Drawing (Second edition). University of Pennsylvania Press.

    many thanks


    • Thank you Paul. I am still at the beginning of my studies here with the OCA, not having any formal art schooling since age 13 an age ago. It does mean a lot of the images I find for research reference are new to me, along with techniques and I have not formulated a strong opinion either way about the quality or effectiveness of any technique. I also did not realise that Moore worked in print but I will now do some reading as I have just started Printmaking 1 – another coincidence! Katharine.

      • Hello Katherine, thanks for that. I had better add that I’m not sure of the extent of Moore’s printmaking activities and he may have had a lot of his printing done for him. A lot of artists do that anyway. His contemporary and equal Barbara Hepworth interests me more. Her drawings in operation theatres (also war time work, I think) are very different in feel from Moore’s drawings. You may want to look those up. To say a bit about me, I have been making art for a very long time but without qualifications, and I’m now breaking my head on printmaking 1, and fortunate to have an excellent tutor. Paul.

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