The Shelter Sketch-Book was executed between 1940-42. The drawings for the sketchbook were made as studies for Moore's large shelter drawings, which had been commissioned by the War Artists Committee, whose president was Sir Kenneth Clark.
Moore made notes during the nights he spent in different London Underground stations then used by locals as shelters and underground dormitories during air raids.
"I never made any sketches in the Underground. It just wasn't possible. It would have been like making sketches in the hold of a slave ship. One couldn't be as disinterested as that. Londoners had decided for themselves that the Underground was the safest place to be, and nothing was organized. … Instead of drawing, I would wander casually past a group of people half a dozen times or so, pretending to be unaware of them. Sometimes I climbed the staircase so that I could write down a note on the back of an envelope without being seen. A note like 'two people sleeping under one blanket' would be enough of a reminder to enable me to make a sketch the next day.'
These sketches are now famous, remarkable wartime records and an important part of English art history.
Under Moore's supervision, collotype prints were made from his sketchbooks. A collotype is a printing process which can produce wonderfully accurate prints from an image - the glass or aluminium plate is coated with a gelatin solution which is exposed to a photographic negative. The gelatin is hardened in exposed areas and is then soaked in glycerin, which is absorbed most in the non-hardened areas. When exposed to high humidity, these areas absorb moisture and repel the greasy ink. The hardened areas accept the ink and thus a print can be taken from the plate.
This remarkable portfolio of collotypes, made in 1967 is compiled of 80 prints from Moore's sketches. There are 180 of these portfolios and each is signed and numbered on the frontice page, though the collotypes are not signed individually.
We put a small selection of prints from the portfolio in last July's Secret Bid Auction and they were very popular works - perhaps you even made a bid yourself…?
We were lucky enough to get hold of two complete portfolios, so I hope you're able to join us next Wednesday to have first selection from all the works. If you would like to see the works online please visit our Henry Moore catalogue.