My 100th Post: The 1910 Room at The Tate

To celebrate my 100th post, I thought a quick look at my favourite art period was called for. These two photographs epitomise what it is I love about the 1910 room at The Tate. I hadn’t considered the way in which the pieces are placed together before so decided to photograph the statues alongside the paintings yesterday.

The Arrival -CRW Nevinson

Workshop -Percy Wyndham Lewis

Singer -Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Nevinson and Wyndham Lewis are in parallel here with their vorticist style. Together, they are a powerful example of how the movement sought to eliminate the notion of decorative art and instead, to depict modern life through a form of abstraction.

From The Tate:

This work, typical of Nevinson’s Futurist period, aroused much comment when it was exhibited in 1915 as ‘My Arrival in Dunkirk’ (that it was this work is confirmed by the contemporary reproductions in the Daily Express, 25 February 1915, and the Daily Graphic, 5 March 1915). It was probably the work already exhibited as ‘The Arrival’ the year before, when a review in the Star said of it: ‘It resembles a Channel steamer after a violent collision with a pier. You detect funnels, smoke, gangplanks, distant hotels, numbers, posters all thrown into the melting-pot, so to speak. Mr Nevinson acted as interpreter, explaining that it represented a “state of simultaneous mind”.’

Lewis’s painting Workshop epitomises Vorticism’s aims, using sharp angles and shifting diagonals to suggest the geometry of modern buildings. Its harsh colours and lines echo the discordant vitality of the modern city in an ‘attack on traditional harmony’. The group’s aggressive rhetoric, angular style and focus on the energy of modern life linked it to Italian Futurism, though it did not share the latter’s emphasis on speed and dynamism.”

Dancer -Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

La Miltrallieuse -CRW Nevinson

I love the sensuous fluidity of Gaudier’s dancer. It was influenced by theories of creative energy and of the world in a state of constant flux, proposed by the philosopher Henri Bergson. This is in stark contrast to the dark palette, sharp angles and fixed expressions and rigidity of the men who are in tune with their machines in Nevinson’s work.

 

 

 

 

David Bomberg: When a Vorticist is not a Vorticist

I have been purchasing old exhibition catalogues and two are of particular interest at the moment: Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism: The Tate Gallery, 6th July -19th August, 1956 and one from the 2nd March-9th April 1967 retrospective of David Bomberg.

Everywhere I go at the moment, there seems to be a Bomberg.  Love popping into the Mud Bath at the Tate; went specifically to Bristol for Figure Composition, 1913; stumbled across The Moorish Wall, Cyprus in Nottingham, of all places and was hoping to bump into him at the Higginson Bedford -result!

So why are these catalogues so interesting?  The exhibition of Wyndham Lewis’s work had a section entitled, ‘Other Vorticists’ in which Bomberg was included, despite the fact that he didn’t class himself as a Vorticist. He never signed the Manifesto, although he did exhibit with the rest of the group in their one exhibition.  The work in question, Jewish Theatre 1913 is not in the stripped down form that characterised other artists who joined Lewis in the celebration of the machine, therefore, it is not surprising that Bomberg was so unhappy with his inclusion in Lewis’s show.

The early works by Bomberg are, for me, the most interesting  and the retrospective catalogue has a fantastic essay about the Mud Bath, comparing it with Wyndham Lewis’s Two Mechanics. Think it is worth quoting:

 

Two Mechanics

 

“Lewis applies the machine image literally by pretending  that the figures he is drawing is a kind of machine. The two mechanics…are really just life-room models transformed into robots.  But the Bomberg figures are not like that at all.  Curiously, for all that they are sharp-edged as a pile of girders, they have a kind of spring about them, a muscularity which is entirely human.”

The Mud Bath, David Bomberg 1914

And it is that comment about the humanity of the figures that is so true. This painting is positioned low on the wall, so you are looking down -well you do if you’re taller than me!  The author of the essay, Andrew Forge, says that the more you look at this, the more impressed you become about its “vitality”.  Once you realise that the white and blue is light and shade, you start to see the forms in their different guises: the man diving in, the one on the bath’s edge, the head and arms of the man cutting through the water amongst them.

The one that I would love to see is hidden in the Tate’s storage: Vision of Ezekiel:

Here, the shading brings these figures to the fore and each figure differs to the next. The vibrancy of this can only be imagined.  Perhaps, at some point, this will come out again.

After the war, Bomberg moved into a more representational style and away from his mechanised, angular forms.

 

The recent BBC series, British Art at War, looked closely at Bomberg’s work and is well worth viewing.

David Bomberg: Prophet in No Man’s Land

 

Expressionism, Cubism and Vorticism at Higgins Bedford

I have developed a real love of Vorticism and the artists associated with that movement.  When this exhibition popped up, I had to make a decision whether a 90 minute drive was worth the chance that I would see some of the works of my favourite artists… it was!

This exhibition was beautifully lit and the curation had the right balance between the three movements.  The catalyst for change with these three groups of artists was the Great War and with the artists themselves playing a role in the fighting, their return from the trenches altered the way in which they perceived their art.

The German Expressionists were well represented with the woodcuts of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Eric Heckel; as well as Edvard Munch’s haunting lithographs: Jealousy II and Woman with a Brooch (Madonna)

Munch - Jealousy II Munch - Woman with a Brooch

http://gundersencollection.com/index.php/gundersen-collection-munch-articles/16-munch-jealousy-1

 

 

Jealousy II was particularly powerful.  The lover looks out at us with no sense of regret for what he has done.  The question is asked whether the woman is covering her nakedness, having been caught, or whether she too is blatently demonstrating her illicit relationship to her husband.  Based on Munch’s own love affair with a poet’s wife.

Centauress - PWL

The Centauress

The Vorticists started with Wyndham Lewis’s The Centauress .  Lewis’s time in France had bought him to this change in his painting, embracing expressionism, cubism and futurism in one.

Bomberg The Dancer

The Dancer

David Bomberg’s 1913 work, The Dancer was worth the journey on its own.  The colour pallette was so vibrant and what I am loving about his early work is the way in which the image emerges the longer you gaze at it.  Although he did not sign up as a Vorticist, Bomberg did exhibit his work in the only Vorticist Exhibition held in 1915.

First_Vorticist_Exhibition_Doré_Gallery_London_June_1915Upon his return from the First World War, Bomberg rejected the mechanised age within his work and returned to a more representational style.

Two sketches by Christopher Nevinson were also on show: Study for ‘Column on the March and Loading Timber at Southampton Docks.

Then we moved to the Cubists with a fabulous Georges Braque – The Fox.  This I had seen in books, so it was good to get a look at this in detail.

 

The final section was entitled, ‘A Return to Order and a New Objectivity.  The horrors of the war clearly made its mark on the artists in this section, none more so that Otto Dix.

There were four etchings from his series ‘Der Kriege’ and one in particular was striking.  Called ‘Dead in the Sludge’, Dix did not want to hide the reality of trench warfare and it was very reminiscent of this one by Gilbert Rogers:

Dead in Sludge

Dead in Sludge

Gassed 'Arduis Fidelis'

Gassed ‘Arduis Fidelis’

 

 

 

 

 

 

This exhibition ends today and I am delighted that I took a chance on seeing this.  Just goes to show that you should go with your gut instincts.