Friday, August 16, 2013


VORTICISM was a short-lived modernist art movement originating in London in the early 20th century.  Appearing in1914 and partly influenced by Cubism, the movement favored a geometric style, leaning towards the abstract, and rejecting landscape and nude form.

Wyndham Lewis was the key figure establishing the Vorticist group at the Rebel Art Center.  Lewis saw the movement as an independent alternative to Cubism, Futurism, and Expressionism.  Vorticism embraces dynamism, the machine age, and all things modern.  Paintings in this style depict modern life in an array of bold lines and harsh colors which draw the viewer into the center of the work.

Before the Vorticist group, the Rebel Art Center exhibited experimental painting and sculpture by Lewis, Edward Wadsworth, and others that used angular abstraction.  It was contemporary and often compared to the works of European artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Frantiset Kupka.  Only one Vorticist exhibition was ever held.  In 1915, works by Lewis, William Roberts, Helen Saunders, and Edward Wadsworth, were displayed at the Dore Gallery in London.

The onset of WWI and public apathy largely lead to the break up of the movement.  Wyndham Lewis briefly tried to revive the movement around 1920, using the name Group X, but was unsuccessful.  Although Lewis is seen as the main character of the movement, it has been debated that this may have been due to his many contacts and self-promotion, rather than the quality of his work.

An exhibition called Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism  at the Tate Gallery in 1956, highlighted his place in the movement.  Other exhibits since then include, The Vorticists; Rebel Artists in London and New York, 1914-1918, in 2010 and 2011 at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, and The Vorticists; Manifesto For a Modern World in 2011 at the Tate Britain.

Image above, "The Crowd" by Wyndham Lewis.

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