Selections from Poems by Auden

Auden, W. H.
Moore, Henry.
Selections from Poems by Auden.
London: Petersburg Press, 1974. (12287)

No. 94 of an edition (B) of 150 books, with lithographs by Henry Moore. Accompanied by four loose images signed and numbered by the artist.

This book is a collection of poems by Pulitzer Prize winning British-American poet W. H. Auden (1907–1973), illustrated by Henry Moore (1898–1986). The shown poem, The Shield of Achilles was first published in 1955. This poem, one of Auden’s best-known, reimagines a scene from The Iliad. The poem was published in the decade after World War II and is a powerful rejection of war and violence.

Moore captures the stark beauty of a scene without nature. The viewer is pulled into the image through the white mark-marking against the black ground, illustrating the “million eyes, a million boots in line, without expression, waiting for a sign.” It sets a relationship between art and war and asks the question: “Is this ethically acceptable considering it is a representation of violence?” The poem was written during Auden’s “Italian” period, thus the reference to “the vines and olive trees and marble well-governed cities.”

Henry Moore drew the accompanying images between February and December of 1973. Auden died during this time on Sept. 29, 1973, and the edition page incudes an in memoriam, with "In memory of Wystan Auden" written in Moore's hand on one page and caricatures of the poet by Moore on the facing page, both printed in lithograph.

After attending Royal College of Art in London, Moore became an official war artist producing his now famous drawings of people sheltering in London. His first solo show of sculpture in 1928 was a huge success and led to the establishment of Moore’s reputation as an artist with a modernist aesthetic. In 1948 he travelled to Italy for his one-man show in the British Pavilion at the 24th Venice Biennale, the first since the war. Moore's work was felt to reflect the spirit of the event, and he was awarded the International Sculpture Prize.  His sculpture came to represent the optimistic, humanist values embodied in modernism and opposed to Fascism. In 1972 the British Council staged the largest exhibition of Moore’s work to date cementing a long-standing relationship with the council. Later in life, he set up the Henry Moore Foundation to administer and manage exhibitions of his work, and protect the grounds of his home and studio.

© 2021 / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London

Selections from Poems by Auden