• Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
  • Dawn - Leon Underwood, Bowman Sculpture Ltd
Click image to enlarge

Dawn

Leon Underwood

(British, 1890-1975)

Signed Leon U. Numbered IV/VII and dated 32
Bronze with rich golden brown patina
Height: 4" (10.2 cm)

Conceived and cast in 1932
Edition 4 of 7


Leon Underwood has been called 'the father of modern sculpture in Britain' and although the development and range of his work clearly show the importance of his achievements, the artist has received a fraction of the acclaim afforded to his pupils Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.

Underwood's creative style lies in the figurative, which he studied at the Royal College and the Slade School of Art, and then working as a sculptor, painter, wood engraver and writer.

He taught life drawing at the Royal College of Art for two years. In 1921 he founded the Brook Green School of Art in Hammersmith, London, where he taught Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Gertrude Hermes, and Eileen Agar amongst others.

Underwood exhibited widely in London; at the Leicester Galleries, Chenil Gallery, and numerous others. He was part of a group of friends and artists which included Frank Dobson, Maurice Lambert, Richard Bedford, and Eric Kennington – all direct carvers and leading lights of modern sculpture in Britain.

Underwood served in both the First and Second World Wars, and travelled extensively seeking inspiration for his own work in Poland, Iceland, Spain, Mexico and Africa. Underwood's interest in Mexico was originally aroused by seeing ancient Mexican art at the British Museum.

In 1927, whilst working as an illustrator in New York, he had the idea for a book retracing a journey through Mexico made in 1839 by John L. Stevens and the artist Catherwood. In January 1928, Underwood set off with his friend Phillips Russell down the South-Eastern shore of the Gulf of Mexico. They travelled up the rivers of Tabasco and over the Sierra Madre to the Pacific, east of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Underwood made many drawings, not only as illustrations for the book, but also as inspiration for his own paintings and sculpture. This journey remained a vibrant inspiration which fascinated Underwood for ten years. He published ‘Animalia’ while working in New York, and maintained a particular fascination for Mayan and Aztec sculpture, which he had seen in Mexico.

Underwood also visited West Africa, subsequently publishing several books on African Art.

These are some of the first reclining figures sculpted by the artist. It is of interest that his great pupil Henry Moore, whose reputation is firmly built around this very subject, was not making multiple series in this form until a decade after Underwood’s inventions. Certainly Moore and his other followers owed a great debt to Underwood, who was hugely influential in his teaching of direct carving, interest in tribal art, and the modern forms that he initiated would then be developed through the rest of the century.

Literature: Ben Whitworth, The Sculpture of Leon Underwood, Lund Humphries, Aldershot, 2000, cat. no.53, illustrated p.126

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