One hundred and ninety seven

Tube Shelter Perspective 1941: The Liverpool Extension

1941 by Henry Moore
Tate

One of the most interesting things about the Tate’s recent exhibition on Henry Moore was the work that varied from his usual sculpture. An entire room was dedicated to his works during the war, when he was commissioned by the government as an official war artist. These are mostly drawings, completely different from his sculpture or even his sculptural preparatory sketches, which are warmly and smoothly tonal; these are scratches plagued with the sinister nature of their subject matter. Texture is particularly biting, with both the figures and sides of the tunnel scrawled in thin, sharp lines, appearing in acute contrast to the epic smooth and rounded shapes of Moore’s characteristic sculpture. Although these lined figures are haunted with Moore’s body shape, small heads and large rounded limbs, they are drawn quickly with a painful immediacy that the carefully honed sculpture never possessed. These appear as skeletons with flesh, flesh that hangs in sickly white and yellow, etched and wrapped round the bodies, mummifying them with the drawing of the effects of war. The figures are highlighted, ghostly white they are the reminders of war, horribly luminous in the never ending darkness of the tunnel. The whiteness is echoed on the curving lines of the walls, emphasising the enclosed space and reflective of the mass of repeated bodies below. They appear as bodies, not people, death ominous among supposed life, life that forces its creatures to wait for the end in the dark.

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