Leon Underwood (1890 – 1975)
Leon Underwood was born in London. He studied at the Regent Street Polytechnic, London and at the Royal College of Art, London and later at the Slade School of Fine Art, London. Primarily a sculptor, his significance in the history of wood engraving is that in the art school he ran in London, a group of young artists discovered engraving for themselves, as he was inspirational teacher of drawing who greatly influenced their style. The group included Gertrude Hermes, Blair Hughes-Stanton and Henry Moore. Although only a few years older than his students Underwood shared their sense of discovery and made a number of engravings himself, and, later, many coloured prints remarkable for their technical command. He discovered African art through a British Council sponsored lecture tour of West Africa and Harvest Corn in the British Council collection reflects this interest.
The depiction of shapes and forms on a flat surface chiefly by means of lines although colour and shading may also be included. Materials most commonly used are pencil, ink, crayon, charcoal, chalk and pastel, although other materials, including paint, can be used in combination.
An intaglio process whereby lines are cut into a metal or wood plate using an engraving tool (a burin), which is pushed in front of the hand to achieve a sharp controlled incision capable of great delicacy. This technique requires a great deal of control and is not suited to spontaneous mark-making.