A bold drawing in thick black graphite and ink, on a slightly aged paper. At the bottom, linear forms slightly resemble human forms, and they surround a circular post-like form in the centre of the sheet. On the top half, building-like forms sit atop the black background, with sharp lines of black and white dotting the background.
Helen Saunders (1885-1963), Vorticist Composition with Figures, Black and White, 1915 © Estate of Helen Saunders

Vorticist Composition with Figures, Black and White

Helen Saunders

Among the first British artists to work in a non-figurative style, Helen Saunders was one of only two women members of the Vorticists, a radical but short-lived London-based modern art movement (1914-15) influenced by Cubism.  

This bold, hard-edged composition, with its sharp geometric forms and dramatic contrasts of black and white, reflects Vorticism’s decisive break with the art of the past. Also characteristic is the structuring of the composition to draw the viewer’s eye to the centre of the sheet. The forms in the lower half of the drawing suggest human figures at the mercy of a colossal machine, undoubtedly reflecting the events of the First World War.  

You might also like

See more collection highlights

Explore The Courtauld’s remarkable collection of paintings, prints and drawings, sculpture and decorative arts.

Two men sit across from each other at a table covered with a brown tablecloth, playing cards. Both men wear overcoats and hats, and the man on the left smokes a pipe. They sit inside a wooden building. i Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), The Card Players, (1892-96), The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust) © The Courtauld