Artwork Description / Detail
LEON UNDERWOOD was a noted British painter, sculptor, engraver, writer and teacher. Born in London, Underwood was at the forefront of artistic achievement and innovation during the inter-war years and is now considered the father of modern sculpture in Britain.
Underwood was an avid collector of non-Western art, particularly African, Mayan and Aztec carvings. The influence of trips to Mexico (1928) and West Africa (1945) is apparent in many of his works. Underwood’s belief in subject – and in the life giving force of the figure – inspired his interest in primitive art.
Painted the same year as the artist’s trip to Mexico, Odalisque (Mestiza) depicts a young woman taking a break from rolling cigarettes. She appears to be wearing a huipil; a traditional garment (blouse) worn by the indigenous women of Mexico. The sculptural quality of the work gives weight to the reclining figure – a key primitive concern.
Public collection’s holding his Underwood’s work include the Tate Gallery, Courtald Institute of Art, National Portrait Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, Ashmolean Museum and the National Museum of Cardiff.