The largest exhibition of coalmining drawings by celebrated artist, Henry Moore, will be shown this December at St Albans Museum + Gallery - eighty years since they were completed for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC).

Moore is famous for his sculpture, particularly of women and abstract forms, and his drawings of Londoners sheltering from the blitz in 1940 are also well known. But it is often forgotten that Moore was the son of a miner from Castleford in Yorkshire, and as a war artist he developed a detailed series of drawings from sketches he made in 1942 at Wheldale Colliery where his father had worked. Moore spent one week in the mine drawing from observation and then worked from memory to create the remaining drawings, which were all completed within six months.

Curated by University of Hertfordshire Arts + Culture and played out within the theatre of the dark-walled, subterranean Weston Gallery of St Albans Museum + Gallery, the timely exhibition takes inspiration from the new book, Drawing in the Dark by art historian, Chris Owen.

This discreet body of work, consisting of over 100 drawings will be showcased alongside sculptures and other works-on-paper. Visitors are invited to journey from quick pencil sketches, through developmental drawings, finished pieces and finally to later works inspired by Moore’s coalmining experience. Drawings from the four coalmining sketchbooks will be represented to demonstrate a range of techniques including pencil, ink and wax.

The drawings not only demonstrate the back-breaking labour which nearly 3/4 million miners endured daily, as they made their vital contribution to Britain's war effort, but they also reveal new insights into Moore’s life and artistic process. This exhibition offers a unique opportunity to see the leading British Modernist sculptor afresh, through drawings, notes and a rare choice of subject matter.

Image Credit: Pit Boys at Pit Head, 1942, Wakefield Permanent Art Collection. Image Courtesy of The Hepworth Wakefield.

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