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Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Property of a Private European Collector
Henry Moore (1898-1986)

Three Sleeping Shelterers

Details
Henry Moore (1898-1986)
Three Sleeping Shelterers
signed and dated 'Moore 41.' (lower right)
watercolor and brush and grey wash, wax crayon and pen and India ink on paper
13 ½ x 19 in. (34.2 x 48.2 cm.)
Executed in 1941
Provenance
Corporate collection, Great Britain (acquired circa 1980s); sale, Christie's, London, 3 February 2010, lot 234.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

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Max Carter
Max Carter

Lot Essay

This work is recorded in the Henry Moore Foundation Archives under no. HMF 1849a.

“Fear, expectancy, boredom, lassitude, mutual love, and protection—all the emotions in the attitudes of these victims of war are rendered in drawings of monumental power”—Herbert Read thus praised Henry Moore’s wartime Shelter drawings (Henry Moore, New York, 1966, pp. 142-143). Three Sleeping Shelterers projects these qualities to maximum, compelling, expressive effect. Alan Wilkinson judged that “in their visionary intensity, Moore’s Shelter drawings have a rightful place among the supreme achievements of English graphic art” (Henry Moore Drawings, exh. cat., The Tate Gallery, London, 1977, p. 36).
“The air raids began—and the war from being an awful worry became a real experience,” Moore recalled to James Johnson Sweeney for the latter’s 1947 article in the New York Partisan Review. On 7 September 1940, the German Luftwaffe commenced Hitler’s terror campaign of nightly air raids on London and other English cities. The ordeal lasted through May 1941. From the outset, people sought refuge in the Underground tube stations. “I found myself excited by the bombed buildings, but more still by the unbelievable scenes of life in the underground shelters. I began filling a notebook with drawings… Naturally I could not draw in the shelter itself. I drew from memory on my return home. But the scenes of the shelter world, static figures (asleep)—‘reclining figures’—remained vivid in my mind... I was absorbed in the work for a whole year; I did nothing else” (quoted in A. Wilkinson, ed., Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Berkeley, 2002, p. 61).
After a nearby bomb blast damaged Moore’s studio in northwest London, the artist and his wife Irina rented, then purchased the farmhouse Hoglands in Perry Green. Using his petrol allowance as an official war artist, Moore drove weekly to London; a special permit enabled him to enter and stay a night or two in any tube station, in which a “sea of sleepers”—as Moore titled one drawing—waited out the fiery storm above. He made notes and sometimes cursory sketches in small pads—the First Shelter Sketchbook comprises 67 pages of studies (The British Museum, London), and the Second Shelter Sketchbook contains 95 drawings (Henry Moore Foundation). Moore also worked in two other note pads, mixing in other subjects, which were subsequently broken up.
From pages in the two Shelter Sketchbooks, Moore created around 65 enlarged, more fully realized compositions. He developed Three Sleeping Shelterers from the study on page 7 in the Second Shelter Sketchbook, which he had annotated “Platform scene of sleeping people / 3 or 4 people under one blanket—uncomfortable positions, distorted / twistings—all kinds & colours of blankets, sheets & old coats. Two figures in sleeping embrace / Masses of sleeping figures fading to perspective point of tunnel / Group of people sleeping, disorganised angles of arms & legs / here and there covered with blankets” (A. Garrould, ed., Henry Moore: Complete Drawings, 1940-1949, Aldershot, 2001, vol. 3, p. 51, no. AG 40-41.75). The present drawing is the most inclusive—showing the extended figures of the three women—in a score of related studies and enlarged compositions that otherwise concentrate on their faces and arms close-up, a group that culminated in one of best-known and emblematic of the Shelter drawings, Pink and Green Sleepers (AG. 41.92; HMF 1845; The Tate Gallery, London).

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