Leon Underwood (British, 1890 – 1975)
Retirement of the Autumn Leaf, 1949
Charcoal and watercolour with scratching out on paper
Signed and dated ‘Leon U. 49.’ (lower right)
13.1/2 x 19 in. (34.3 x 48 cm.)
Provenance: Beaux Arts Gallery, London Christopher Hull Gallery, London; exhibition 1983 #17, collection S. A. Taylor Esq.
Underwood was known as the precursor of modern sculpture in Britain according to Neve Rothenstein in the work of 1974 but is also well known as a draftsman and engraver amongst other disciplines. He attended the Slade and founded the magazine ‘The Island’, in 1931. His work was influenced by African and Cycladic designs. In the First World War, he worked in camouflage design. In 1920 he won the British Prix de Rome but decided not to go to Italy. As well as being an artist he taught. Among his students was Henry Moore who would later declare his indebtedness to Underwood’s teaching.
He made many commissions and murals and his work is held in many public collections including The Courtauld, The Tate Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, The Victoria and Albert Museum and the Ashmolean. Pallant House devoted a recent exhibition to him in 2015 and the Henry Moore Foundation selected various works to put Moore’s work into context.
There are very clear connections between this work and those of Henry Moore. The sculptural forms are abstracted with a foreboding grey and brown palette providing a moody composition.