27 Stooping Nude Child

Title: Stooping Nude Child

Artist/Source: Percy Wyndham Lewis (English, 1882 – 1957; Slade student 1898 – 1901)

Date: 1900

Medium/Technique: black pastel on paper

UCL Art Museum #6003

Percy Wyndham Lewis was one the premier artists of British Modernism. He founded both the Camden Town Group (in 1911) and the Vorticist Movement (in 1914), and edited the influential journal Blast! While a student at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1898 – 1901, Lewis agitated against what he considered to be the rigid conservative teaching offered by Henry Tonks (1862 – 1937). Despite this oppositional stance Lewis was awarded a Slade scholarship in 1900.

This drawing is characterised by a series of extremely strong outlines drawn with an energy and conviction that prefigures Lewis’s modernist work. It shares instead some of the hallmarks of a Slade life drawing, particularly in its reliance on strong contour. His tuition under Tonks led him to appreciate and excel in draughtsmanship. In the 1930s he wrote an essay under the title, ‘The Role of Line in Art’, comparing the elements of draughtsmanship to the roles of anatomical parts. He considered the line to be “the bone beneath the pulp,” fundamental to structure. Later when he worked with oils he would still appreciate the drawing skills developed at the Slade, stating 'It is more difficult upon a piece of white paper, your means of expression reduced to a few lines, to deceive the expert spectator than it is with a lot of oil paint upon a canvas.'

In this drawing the rough surface of the paper transmits into a rougher line. Two contours are visible, a skin contour created through shading and pentimenti (lines that are altered by overdrawing) which lend the child the appearance of movement. The body’s weight is evident, a giant fist appearing heavy on a lower plane than the rest of the body. The head bound down and inward lends the figure a vulnerable, foetal appearance.


David Ayers, Wyndham Lewis and Western Man. Basingstoke and London: Macmillan (1992).

Edward Chaney, “Wyndham Lewis: The Modernist as Pioneering Anti-Modernism”, Modern Painters (Autumn, 1990), III, no.2, pp.106-9.

Paul Edwards, Wyndham Lewis, Painter and Writer. New Haven and London: Yale University Press (2000).

Andrzej Gasiorek, Wyndham Lewis and Modernism. Tavistock: Northcote House (2004).

Related works:

Wyndham Lewis, Standing Male Nude, 1901, pencil drawing (UCL Art Museum #6040).

Wyndham Lewis, Blast!, 1914 (UCL Art Museum #4638).

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