Vorticist Composition with Figures, Black and White

Helen SaundersAround 1915

The Courtauld Institute of Art

The Courtauld Institute of Art
London, United Kingdom

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 modern art movement (1914-15) influenced by Cubism. This bold, hard-edged composition, with its shrap geometric forms and dramatic monochrome contrasts, reflects Vorticism's decisive break with the art of the past. The composition leads the viewer towards the prominent circle in the upper centre, which can read as a giant eye or sun — this was drawn on a separate pice of paper then glued down. 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. Despite her long career, much of Saunders's work has been lost. Only in recent years has this groundbreaking artist been rediscovered and appreciated. The Courtauld holds an outstanding group of works by Saunders, the majority of which were presented by Brigid Peppin in 2016.


  • Title: Vorticist Composition with Figures, Black and White
  • Creator: Helen Saunders
  • Creator Lifespan: 1885-1963
  • Date Created: Around 1915
  • Physical Dimensions: 25.4 x 17.8 cm
  • Type: Drawing
  • Rights: Ⓒ Estate of Helen Saunders. Photo Ⓒ The Courtauld
  • External Link: Explore The Courtauld's collection
  • Medium: Graphite and black ink and collage on wove paper
  • Art Movement: Vorticism
  • Acquisition Credit: Samuel Courtauld Trust purchase, 2016

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