‘Woman Seated in the Underground’ by Henry Moore and ‘Sad Shower inNew York’ by Tracey Emin have been chosen to be compared with theexpectation of demonstrating how the lone female figures in both pieces can be employed to showstrength and courage beyond the drawings as a result of their common sense ofvulnerability, the initial reasoning behind the drawings’ comparison. Thestrength and courage in ‘Sad Shower inNew York’ is revealed throughEmin’s openness to confess herself as the figure as well as the story behindit. In the case of ‘Women Seated in the Underground’,the vulnerable situation of the lone female figure emphasises and reminds us ofthe strength of Londoners, perhaps women specifically, during the blitz. Theessay will be structured on points created through constant discussion of thesimilarities and differences between the drawings in order to investigate thekey issues already specified. Lack of colour, contrast in decision to revealidentity of the figure, and the different and similar ways the artist’s createdform within the two pieces and the similar decision to work from memory will beconsidered. All points stated will be supported and counter argued usingevidence accumulated through books, online news articles and websites in orderto investigate the key issues. HenryMoore created ‘Women Seated in the Underground’after he was appointed ‘one of thecountry’s official war artists’ (Davies, 2006).
Regardless of analysing theelements of the drawing you are aware that the female figure is left in avulnerable situation as she is taking cover from the Blitz. The undergroundshould have been a place for the female figure to get protection from thebombings however the atmosphere described by Moore suggests otherwise. Moorewho was regularly visiting the shelters got first hand insight and had theopportunity to gage a sense to what life was possibly like for the civilians. Moore(1961, cited in Wilkinson, 2002, p.264) believed the shelters were onlycomparable to ‘a slave-ship on its way from Africa to America, full of hundredsand hundreds of people who were having things done to them that they were quitepowerless to resist’.
This goes to show that the shelters weren’t necessarily aplace of refuge and its victims, instead of feeling protected, felt helpless. Similar to Moore, Tracey Emin’s ‘Sad Shower in New York’ you would beaware of what to sense from the drawing without having to analyse specificelements of it beforehand. The title already gives a clear indication of theemotions to expect from the drawing.
However Moore sources vulnerability fromwhat he observes, being a war artist, where as Emin produces it off her ownpersonal experiences, ‘Emin’s subject matter is herself; her life story is the source of herpain and her pride’ (Brown et al, 1998, p.37). Much of Emin’s work is createdon often-painful life experiences and ‘Sadshower in New York’ is no exception to this. The drawing is a memory ofEmin’s sadness and loneliness experienced travelling to various cities forexhibitions. This particular print was created after ‘a trip to New York when Emin hassaid that she was feeling ‘pathetic and despondent”(Manchester, 2001).
It can be concluded that both drawings showfemale figures in vulnerable situations based on the context behind thedrawings, regardless of whether that vulnerability was sourced throughobservation or life experience. Whilstit is noted that both drawings display vulnerability of lone female figures, itis this vulnerability that can be transformed into the strength of womenoutside of the drawings. ‘Sad Shower inNew York’ although illustrating a sad memory of Emin can in fact show thestrength and courage of the artist.
Elizabeth Manchester (2001) believes Emin’s ‘ability to translate negativepersonal experience into a form of affirmation, are among her greateststrengths as an artist’. This suggests how the vulnerability present in Emin’s drawing shows thestrength as an artist to manifest her adversities into pieces of art and hercourage to reveal her traumatic experiences. Mooreis able to, in a similar way to Emin, use the vulnerability and suffering ofhis subject in his drawing to conjure up the strength and courage of thecivilians during the time of World War II, however where Moore and Emin differis by Moore’s decision to show the strength and courage of the collective ratherthan Emin, who focuses on the individual. Moore didn’t hide away from the fullextent of what the Londoners were suffering, he wasn’t achieving to displayjust ‘the passive helplessness of the anonymous victims of war’ (Causey, 2010,p.2), it was through giving the truth of what the shelters were like that’s thedrawings would bring about the ‘grandeur and dignity worthy of bravery andcourage of the Londoners they depict’ (Causey, 2010, p.2).
It was the enduringqualities of the Londoners to accept the destruction of they city and to simplycarry on with decorum and civility. Eminand Moore similarly believe that their approach to form is more than just fordepicting the image, the choice in style helps to indicate the overall essenceof their drawings. With that in common it should be noted that their choice instyle does somewhat differ. They both adopt lines to create form, but there aresignificant differences in the how these lines translate onto paper. Itis fair to believe that Moore’s choice of bold, strong, white lines suggeststhe emotions of the female figure in the shelter, Herbert Read (1934, p.12)claims Henry Moore ‘believes that behind the appearance of things there is somekind of spiritual essence’.
This suggests that in Moore’s drawing, form isn’tjust a functional part of it and reveals the emotions and atmosphere of italso. The form of the figure suggests franticness and panic considering she issitting alone as her home above is bombed. The lines wrapping around to createthe body give a sense of the suffocation of the shelters, this is furtherreinforced as the background of the drawing details figures piled on top ofeach other. Emin created her figure using fragile, extremely thin lines andsimilarly to Moore they ‘immediately describe what life is like for her’ (Brownet al, 1998, p.58). If that is the case then the impression the lines give isthat of Emin in that moment felt small and overwhelmed.
This would appear to bethe case as whilst in New York she was suffering extreme homesickness andanxiety. This is reiterated through the body position Emin has decided to drawthe figure in, she is leaning over with her arms timidly in front. Therefore itis established that Moore and Emin collectively use line whether that be indifferent styles, both are able to describe more than what is shown on thepaper, this hints at the emotions experienced by the figures.
Emin usesdelicate lines to show the fragility of the figure, whereas Moore uses boldstrokes to emphasize the panic of the shelter.InterestinglyMoore’s strong lines in contrast to Emin’s fragile lines may suggest that Mooreintended for the ‘densely worked surfaces, using pen and ink, crayon andgouache’ (Wilkinson, 1977, p.107) to indicate the robustness and endurance ofthe female figure in times of diversity, further supported by Frances Carey(1988, p.19), Moore wanted to show the ‘full impact of this strange and tragicsituation, but going beyond the apparent… express those human and enduringqualities which would Ultimately triumph and vindicate it’. Oneof the most noticeable differences between Emin and Moore’s drawings, thedecision to reveal or not reveal the identities of their figures. Emin subjectmatter is herself, potentially as a response to third wave feminism, a movementthat began in the early 1990s which coincides with the creation of ‘Sad Shower in New York’.
Also believedby Souter (2018) ‘Her work can be understood as belonging to the ethos of third-wavefeminism; a belief that a woman can define her sexuality on her own terms. Thelack of symbology in Emin’s work forces audiences to focus on the real and oftentaboo aspects of femininity’. Emin exploited herself in order to bring out apositive outcome; the monoprint. In contrast, Moore decided to keep the identity of his subject anonymous.
Thepurpose of this was to present the experience of the majority and not theindividual, ‘tohim it is the collective pattern and not the individual experience that is ofimportance’ (Carey, 1988, p.18). Moore’s intention was to never show thefortitude of one individual he encountered but to show the courage of a wholegroup of society. It should be noted that nothing yet specifies his drawing isto solely portray the strength and courage of women, however there is plenty ofevidence through out his career that he was a feminist and had great admirationfor women. Gail Gelberd (1987, cited in Mitchinson, 1998, p.343) is quoted inCelebrating Moore as implying that ‘many contexts, from antiquite toprehistory, or the renaissance to modernism, translates to Moore’s women asalways figures of power’. Bothartists’ choice of or lack of choice in colour palette sets the scene for thestruggle and hardship of both figures.
Moore takes a more expressive attitudewith the tones whereas Emin keeps it simple. Both approaches can help toemphasise the courage of both figures. SadShower in New York is strictly black and white, giving the audience theimpression that the figure is in a bleak, desolated situation as the use ofcolour can imply life and more positive experiences. Emin (2005, cited inHiggins, 2005) is quoted as saying ”I’ll start with something very simple, and remove thecolour.’ I felt I was losing passion and sentiment. By removing the colour Ithought I could make things more dense’.
Emin was intent on projecting thenegative experience she had as illustrated in her drawing. The exclusive use of blackand white does indeed achieve vulnerability within the figure however it canalso be to show the strength of Emin. By keeping the colour palette simple, thefocus of the drawing stays on the figure.
With virtually no distractions fromthe figure, Emin’s struggles don’t go unnoticed which beggars recognition tothe mental bravery belonging to her. Onthe other hand Moore’s drawing isn’t quite as simple as Emin’s in terms ofcolour. ‘Women Seatedin the Underground’ consists mostly black and white however there are tones of grey and asmall amount of yellow peaking through behind the figure. The use of all thesecreates an eerie, ghostly atmosphere. Moore specifically avoided colour. ‘Butcolour for me is a bit of a holiday. It’s not what it is to be a painter …There is kind of … I don’t know what! You see, colour can be used to prettifyalmost, or to make attractive – to give popular appeal’ (Gilmour, 1975, p.16).
Here Moore purposefully wants to set the scene that there was struggle anddarkness during the air raids and in a similar belief to Emin, worries that itwould distract from the messages they are both trying to convey. Mooreand Emin both exploit memories to create their drawings, where they differ isin their decision behind drawing from memory opposed to in the moment. Emin utilizes memory to capturehonest emotion onto paper. Emin uses the memory and summons emotion to ‘forcethe drawing’ out of her hands (Emin, 2009).
Emin exploits her memory from NewYork to bring about the emotions to delineate ‘Sad Shower in New York’. Moore did not need to take refuge in the sheltershimself as he lived outside of London so was careful to be respectful of theLondoners when he was down there observing for his drawings. ‘Moore did not actually make work,except perhaps brief notes, in the shelters… One reason for this, he wrote, wasthat ‘it would have been like making sketches in the hold of a slave ship'”(Marshall, 2017). However it could be argued that it wasn’t just Moore’s respect for Londoners thatpushed him to create his drawing from memory. Francis Marshall also states thatMoore couldn’t produce art in the shelters for his own safety, ‘they could easily be mistaken for spies. Thepainter Graham Sutherland, for instance, complained that his official documentsdid not prevent him being arrested on a number of occasions’ (Marshall, 2017).Not only does this indicates that Moore didn’t just create his drawing out ofrespect to not be intrusive towards Londoners but keep himself protected. As aresult of their lack of trust, it creates doubts over the strength of Londonersas suggested by ‘Women Seated in the Underground’.
Throughthe comparison of Moore and Emin’s style is can be considered that Moore’scontribute to the strength of Londoners, whereas Emin’s only indicate to thevulnerability of her figure. Although, the artists also differ in their choice toreveal the identities of their figures, both approaches gain similar effects asEmin shows her strength as an artist and Moore illustrates the endurance ofLondoners during the Blitz. The colour palette has an alike outcome consideringthey both set a vulnerable atmosphere for the figures.
However the artists’decisions to both work from memory leads to differing outcomes. Emin’s choice showsher skill and mental bravery, Whereas Moore’s comes from a more practical sense,which instead reveals the weaknesses in the Londoners. Mooreand Emin’s drawings both show the strength and courage of people beyond thedrawing. Emin is more successful in showing the strength and courage of womenspecifically as she is undeniably able to show her strength as a female artistto utilize her negative memories to create the drawing. Moore, however was morefocused on the portrayal of strength and courage in general and even withevidence from previous work of Moore’s intent for the empowerment of women,there was not enough evidence to suggest that it was also the case for ‘Women Seated in the Underground’ andthe overall consensus indicates he was generalizing the strength and courage ofall Londoners, regardless of gender. Overall,Emin was able to portray the strength of women more successfully than Moore,however Moore had a deeper focus on showing the strength and couragecategorically which gives stronger sense of it beyond the drawing.
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