Leon Underwood's work has a strongly anthropological dimension, influenced heavily by his studies of Mayan and Aztec traditions. Deeply concerned that his subjects should be significant to an understanding of modern life, Underwood travelled extensively, focusing especially on the primitive artwork that he discovered in Poland, Iceland, Spain and Mexico. He believed that a 'modern life is-and will always be- a re-creation of ancient life'.
Trained as a sculptor, painter and printmaker, Underwood won scholarships to the Slade, Royal College of Art, and later taught at the latter. Keen to translate his interests to a new generation of emerging artists, Underwood opened the Brook Green School in 1921 and amongst his pupils were Henry Moore and Eileen Agar.