In raw use of line in the

In this comparative analysis essay, I will be looking
at Henry Moore’s ‘Woman Seated in the Underground,’ produced in 1941
using gouache, ink, watercolour and crayon on paper. I will be comparing it
with Philip Guston’s ‘Group 1,’ produced in 1968 using charcoal on
paper.

Moore’s drawing depicts a woman
sitting on a bench in the underground; whereas Guston’s drawing describes a
group sitting in a cluster. Both of these drawings represent figures and contain
a rough use of line. I selected these drawings due to these similarities. Through
my comparison, I aim to delve into the drawings from observation and analyse
them through referencing research, to achieve a fully rounded and informative analysis.

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I
will be comparing the raw use of line in the drawings, I will then analyse the style
of the drawings and look into whether the artists are deviating from their
usual style to depict these pieces. I will analyse the context of the pieces; comparing
the zeitgeist at the time the drawings were produced. This will be encompassed
with the content of the drawings describing what the artists have depicted and
why they illustrated these specific scenes. Looking into the mood the pieces
portray will be the next aspect I will be analysing. Lastly, I will be observing
the choice of materials and the techniques used to illustrate the scenes.

 

Use of Line

Analysing the
visuals of both drawings allows us to see that they contain
the same type of line. Henry Moore’s drawing is described as using ‘scratchy
lines’ (Cornwall Jones and Guychard n.d) to show the woman seated in the underground. This describes the drawing as
having a ‘rawness’ to it instead of it being precise and definite. The rough
lines are used over the entire piece, through the use of several mediums to illustrate
the foreground and the background. Similarly, Philip
Guston’s drawing is described as using ‘crude black lines’ (Bilske 2006) inferring
a natural and unrefined look to the piece. It is also labelled as having a ‘slightly
coarse style’ (Schreier, Diehl and Stock 2000, p. 51) with rigid lines, further
implies the use of a rough, child-like line. From observing both drawings, the
lines appear scratchy, un-refined and rough, even though they depict different
scenarios with unlike contexts, using dissimilar materials.

 

Style

Delving into
the style of the drawings and the normal style of the artists shows that both drawings display new segments of the artists
life. They are both developing a new style which
changed the path of their career. Previously, Moore was extremely well known
for his sculptural pieces with an abstract and deformed style such as ‘Recumbent
Figure,’ produced in 1938 (Figure 3). The
engagement into the shelter drawings enabled him to acquire a ‘more naturalistic’ (Cornwall Jones and Guychard
n.d) style which is visible in ‘Woman Seated in the Underground.’
The figure in this drawing is more realistic than his previous experimenting
with shapes and forms in his sculpture work. The body of the woman is more accurate
in terms of shape than the sculptures he produced.

Guston’s
drawing was produced in 1968, a time where he had ‘abandoned his painting
practice’ (Bilske 2006). Previously, Guston had produced work in a figurative
style in the 1930s, but was most famously known for his work in abstraction
which occurred mostly in the 1950s to early 1960s (Kingsley 1989, p. 59). In the late 1960s, Philip Guston had retreated from
abstraction and ‘his transition from abstraction to narrative figuration is
evident.’ (Guston 2000, p. 4). Both artists’ transitions to these more
figurative and representational styles may explain the similar use of line.

 

Content and Context

While comparing the content and context of the drawings,
both depict figures in different contexts. This
may be due to them being produced 17 years apart. In 1940, the war in England
became alive and the ideas of an invasion and attacks were looming (Wilkinson
1984, p.299) this is portrayed in Moore’s drawing. Moore illustrates his
drawing along with the rest of the series during this time, showcasing life in
the underground using it as shelter from air-raids. Moore’s drawing is figure
work, depicting a woman sitting in the underground tunnel, using it as protection
from the danger of WWII above. He focuses on the woman figure, however still
shows a perspective view of rows of people in the background. Moore passed
through the underground following the start of the Blitz. He witnessed slumped
figures in a cramped space (Harries and Harries 1983, p. 192); his drawing
portrays the chaos experienced in these areas. The people sheltering felt that
the tunnels were the safest places to be as it was deep underground (Wilkinson
1984, P.300). All of the experiences and scenes that Moore saw, inspired him to
create this drawing and the others in the series, as he was ‘…attracted by the spontaneous and disorganised character of shelter life.’ (Wilkinson 1984, p. 306). The
drawing was produced in 1941 at the midst of the war; some of the viewers could
relate to the feelings and experience it portrays. ‘The subject was one with which his audience could easily identify’ (Wilkinson
1984, p. 311). This is one of the reasons Moore decided to illustrate this
scene; to show the emotional, relatable experiences during the war.

Guston’s drawing also depicts
figure work, however it portrays five hooded figures sitting as a group in the
centre of the piece. The subjects are seated in a cluster, drawn with pointed,
cone-like heads but are not looking at each other. It has been said that the
hooded figures represent the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) due to Guston’s hatred for them
(Schreier, Diehl and Stock 2000, p. 42). However, it is also expressed that the
figures represent the artist himself, masked and concealed from the malicious
modern society (Bilske 2006). ‘The hoods became for Guston…reminders of self, extenders of self.’ (Feld 2003, p. 93). There are many explanations of
the meanings behind the hooded figures; the KKK, Guston himself or a
combination. ‘Guston’s late work alternates between history and autobiography,’
(Slifkin 2011, p. 220).
This shows that the artist was trying to convey a drawing full of complex
underlying ideas and explanations.

The content of the piece is influenced by the context at the time. Philip Guston’s drawing
was created in 1968, a time when Postmodernism was flourishing and artists
favoured irony and eclecticism (Arnold, 2017 b.) It was a time where artists
regained attention in the practice of drawing compared to thinking of it as a
medium and having only a supporting role (Stout 2014, p. 9). Some artists
during this time rethought their content; ‘Artists often create new forms of art through
a complex and strategic merging of past idioms, styles and formats.’ (Stout
2014, p. 10).  In the 1930s, Guston had produced
figurative work containing members of the KKK in disturbing scenes. During the
transition from abstract to figurative work, Guston decided his new style would
‘echo his earlier work of the 1930s’ (Guston 2000, p.4). Postmodernism
encouraged him to create pieces containing previous idioms however portraying
irony.

It is described that ‘drawing is
an exceptionally flexible tool for artists seeking to develop a new language’ (Stout
2014, p. 9). Guston followed this during the transitional period between
styles; he only produced drawings to aid in the discovery of a new genre of his
work. ‘Attempting to balance two very different worlds…pure abstraction and the
world of things seen; drawing became crucial to this balancing act’ (Schreier,
Diehl and Stock 2000, p. 39). From this, we can see that it is the activity of
drawing itself; the freedom that comes with it to experiment that allowed
Guston to develop his new language in a figurative style.

It is clear that both drawings
depict figure work. It was discovered that with Henry Moore, the big experience
in his location influenced the content of his drawing, whereas with Philip
Guston, changes in the art world at the time influenced his method of producing
art as well as content.

 

Materials and Techniques

Henry Moore uses
several materials, whilst Philip Guston utilises only one. Moore’s Drawing was
produced with gouache, ink, watercolour and crayon. The mixture of these
materials, the main material being wax crayon, aids the portrayal of the
drawing in a ‘raw’ way. Moore fell into using a combination of wax crayon and
watercolour before the war. He discovered that by laying a wash of watercolour
over the drawing of wax crayon; the water-colour would only ‘take’ to the
background not the wax. India ink could then be
added to give the forms more definition (Wilkinson 1984, p. 309). Henry Moore utilises
these materials to give the illusion of a three-dimensional drawing with
perspective and depth. This drawing shows directional strokes of wax crayon. The
strokes are angled in a way to present the figure as a three-dimensional person.
Forms need to show tonal graduation showing different degrees of dark and light
through the use of lots of lines to make the piece seem as if it occupies space
in a three-dimensional sense (Arnold 2017 a). This relates to Moore’s drawing
as there are several strokes on the figure that follow the natural contours of
the body, giving it a rounded and ‘full’ look through the varying tones visible
coming from the combination of materials. Moore’s drawing shows ‘one-point
linear perspective’ which is ‘a series of diagonal
lines converge on a single fixed eye point’ (Arnold 2017 a). This is shown in
the background, leading to the tunnel. This technique gives the illusion of
depth and perspective to the drawing.

In
comparison, Guston’s piece shows a flat, two-dimensional drawing due to the
lack of tonal graduation. This is because he lays down straight and direct charcoal
strokes without having a ‘vanishing point’ (Arnold 2017 a)
and without using a smoothing or smudging technique which gives it this flat
observation. Philip Guston’s drawing was produced using solely charcoal.
Charcoal is a material which allows the artist to assert great control over the
image however still being expressive. ‘Continuous and immediate control that an
artist maintains when sketching with piece of charcoal.’ (Bleser T, Sibert J and McGee, J, 1988,
p. 76) With this medium, the artist can create varying
weights of line; Guston has decided not to do this and kept the drawing fairly consistent
in terms of the line used. The un-refined and child-like appearance through the
use of line in ‘Group 1’ may be due to the expressive yet controlled approach
Guston took when using the charcoal.

 From looking into the materials of the pieces,
it is interesting to see that even though the drawings have been created using
different mediums there are some similar visual effects in terms of the rough
use of line and the scratchy, natural effect. However, there are differences in
terms of techniques applied which affects the perspective and depth of the piece.

 

Mood

Due to portraying war
scenes, Moore’s drawing depicts an overall eerie atmosphere. It shows a strong
emotional mood as the artist was ‘faced with a subject from life which profoundly moved him.’ (Wilkinson 1984,
p. 310). He was illustrating scenes of people sheltering for their life during
world war II, desperate for protection under the tunnels from the danger overhead.
Moore witnessed the ‘nightmarish quality of the scene’ (Harries, Harries 1983,
p. 192) from his frequent travels through the underground to sketch. This is
what he tried to illustrate in his drawing; giving off an aura of fear and
tension due to the looming concept of possible death. The woman is portraying
an anxious and vulnerable feeling due to clutching her hands together placed in
her lap. This feeling is emphasised by the ‘nervous, scratchy lines’ (Anon,
2004) used to illustrate the drawing. Colour aided in describing the scene and
embellishing it with emotion. Moore used colour for ‘its emotional effect, not its decorative or realistic effect’ (Wilkinson 1984, p. 309). This implies that the light
washes of blue and orange in ‘Woman seated in the Underground,’ are only
there to add emotion and feeling to the piece. They are not realistic hues
illustrating the scene.

Similarly, Guston’s drawing also radiates a peculiar
and eerie atmosphere due to the portrayal of the hooded figures which could
resemble the KKK. The depiction of these forms implies a disturbing and uncomfortable
mood due to the knowledge of what the KKK have done to groups of minority. ‘Thugs in hoods…They were surprising, exhilarating, fearless…’ (Feld 2003, p. 41) is a description of the hooded
figures in Guston’s drawings and paintings. This explains the horrid qualities
of the masked beings responsible for violence to minorities. This would elicit an aura of fear by looking at the
group on the page. Guston’s drawing also shows a feeling of loneliness and isolation. Even
though the figures are positioned in a group, some are looking away and facing
outwards radiating a feeling of solitude. As it has been said the hoods also
resemble the artist himself. ‘He appeared to live under a permanent cloud of
anxiety…depression – was always beckoning him’ (Kingsley 1989, p. 59), shows
that Philip Guston was a disturbed man and the emptiness felt from the drawing
comes from the depression he battled in his life. The emptiness is portrayed
from the use of one material, the lack of colour and amount of open space in
the piece.

From analysing the mood of the
two drawings, it is interesting to see that the main overarching feeling in
both pieces is fear. Although they do provoke other feelings such as anxiety
and loneliness.

 

To conclude my analysis, it is clear that both
drawings have the same use of a ‘raw’ and ‘scratchy’ line. The two drawings
were produced at a time when the artists were transitioning between styles,
from abstraction to a more figurative and representational approach. The pieces
depict figures, although have different underlying contexts, Moore’s
representation of the war and Guston’s portrayal of himself and the KKK through
the help of the Postmodernism period. The function of Moore’s piece was to
elicit emotion and show the horror of the war, whereas, the function of
Guston’s piece was to help him develop his new language in engaging in the act
of drawing. They were produced using different materials and techniques;
Moore’s using gouache, ink, watercolour and crayon creating varying tones to
produce a three-dimensional look. Guston’s drawing produced solely out of
charcoal with no tonal variation showing a flat perspective. Both drawings
portray an eerie and fear filled mood from the use of the materials but also
from the context behind them.