In the second part of my review of English art I will now consider the influence of Vanessa Bell who Frances Spalding considers in her commentary.
” Having previously confirmed herself chiefly to portraits and still- life’s she (Bell) now painted the arbitrary configurations created by for example ‘a street corner conversation or figures on a beach”. .
” An important influence on this period was Degas who surprisingly was not represented in either of the two (Post- Impressionist) exhibitions”. .
What Spalding fails to understand is that Edgar Degas was not a Post-Impressionists but an Impressionist. There was a marked difference between Impressionism and post-Impressionism if you study the works of Seurat , Signac and Van Gogh, the application of paint , the scientific application of the Iconography.
” It was Degas’s example that taught Sickert always to look for the unconventional in a pose or setting inn order to obtain new harmonies of colour and design”..
” Up to this point Sickert , Gore and others of the Fitzroy street group had been content to send to the twice yearly exhibitions of the New English art club , but this institution alarmed by the threat of post impressionism had turned Reactionary”. .
Spalding continues her commentary on the importance of Sickert.
” It was Sickert who invented the name of the group (Camden Group) arguing with mock seriousness that the Camden district had been so watered with his tears that something sooner or later sprung from it soil “. .
” Its formation coincided with the growing commitment to the ordinary and workaday and to the urban Landscape. Charles Ginner now transformed Brush strokes into small tight regular touches of thick paint with impersonal almost mechanical technique he rendered the prosaic poetry of city life”. .
Spalding explains the differences between Gilman and Ginner who split from Sickert’s group. They called themselves Neo-realists.
” In 1914 Gilman and Ginner drew apart from Sickert’s circle and began calling themselves Neo-realists”..
” Both (Gilman and Ginner) looked for patterns in their surrounding shapes related to reality but which also conveyed a sense of the artist’s emotional response to the subject”. .
Gilman and Ginner still searched for realism but on occasions they worked in an abstract mode.
” Their insistence on realism did not prevent Gilman from joining forces with the more abstract wing of the avant-garde in the winter of 1913/14 to form the London group”. .
” Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) , William Roberts (1895-1980) Frederick Etchells ( 1886-1973) CRW Nevinson (1889-1949) , Edward Wadsworth ( 1889-1949) and Lawrence Atkinson ( 1873-1931) called themselves the English Cubists (Vorticism) reduced their subjects to harsh geometric patterning (CF Mondrian and Van Doesburg) forming energetic compositions out of a conflict of lines and shapes”. .
The difference between the Vorticists and the Cubists was that the Vorticists were to remain a small insignificant group and would not have the influence on Modernism . Cubism was to be central to a High Modernist tradition as espoused by Clement Greenberg and others.
” Unlike the French( Cubists ) counterparts they were not interested in dissolving form into a spatial continuum but dealt in a more brittle images that rested formally on the picture surface”. .
” It was Nevininson (futurist) who took the wrong step and alienated the rest of the (Vorticists) English cubists from Futurism”. .
Vorticism as a movement did not last long some like Lewis argued that it came to an end because of the First Imperialist war in 1914.
” The term Vorticism did not itself come into existence until after Nevinsons’s Vital English art had united the rebel artists with indignation and this enabled Lewis to assist his hegemony over them”. .
” Nevertheless for a short period lasting just over a year a style did exist to which the term Vorticism can be applied. it is spare and architectonic verging on pure abstraction, lines and bars are arranged often around a central nugget of interest ( The still centre of the Vortex)”. .
Lewis and Epstein the leading Vorticists felt that Vorticism was an indicator that Imperialist war would affect Europe once again.
“With hindsight both Lewis and Epstein felt that the aggressive nature of Vorticist art and theory had been in some prophetic of war”. .
” The slaughter caused by the war created horrifying statistics . What touched the nerve more acutely in the case of the artist Paul Nash (1889-1940) was the destruction wrought upon the countryside”. .
Nash brings out all the horrors of war it but was Wyndham Lewis who together with Edwards and Frank Dobson tried once again tried to resurrect Vorticism and once again establish an Avant -Garde in England .Unfortunately it would be left to Nicholson and Hepworth and Penrose to establish a truly Avant- Garde between the two wars.
” Nevertheless when Wyndham Lewis brought together certain of the Vorticists Charles Ginner, the sculptor Frank Dobson (1886-1963) and the poster designer Edward Mcnight Kauffer (1890-1954) in an attempt to reformulate the Avant-garde the result was a failure”. .
” At Dymchurch Nash was visited in 1923 by Ben Nicholson (1894-1982) both painted the coast line but Nicholson instead of adopting the oblique view favoured by Nash confronted the sea straight on Horizontal bands of colour are tied down by the near vertical created by the jelly”..
This completes the second part of my review of English art from 1900-1940. in Part 3 I will explore further the contributions of Paul Nash , Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth.
- BRITISH ART SINCE 1900: FRANCES SPALDING PG.41