The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World

Wyndham Lewis, "Composition," 1913

Wyndham Lewis, “Composition,” 1913

Before he was ever outraged by the atrocities of World War I and moved to Italy, or developed the political leanings that still color his reputation, Ezra Pound was an American ex-pat poet working in London who helped shape the careers of contemporaries such as Eliot, Joyce, Frost, and Hemingway. So, you can understand how and why, at the end of 1913, Pound appropriated the word “vortex” to describe the “maximum energy” he and his colleagues wanted to pump into London’s literary and artistic avant-garde. The next year Wyndham Lewis appropriated the word once again and declared the painters, sculptors and writers working in the new style “The Vorticists”.

Lasting just 4 years, Vorticism might just be the shortest art movement ever, but was nonetheless a pivotal modernist movement that took elements of Cubism and Futurism but produced something very much their own. The exhibition gathers approximately 100 of these works, and for the first time ever, attempts to hang them in a recreation of the only 2 Vorticist exhibitions that ever took place during the lifetime of the movement. Included are iconic works of the movement such as David Bomberg’s The Mud Bath (pictured below). The number of Vorticist works gathered together, the recreation of the original exhibitions, and demonstration of Vorticism’s movement into America, facilitated by Pound, make the exhibition an unprecedented insight into a too often overlooked chapter of the history of the avant-garde.

As a co-production with Duke University’s Nasher Museum and The Guggenheim, the exhibition’s stop in London is its final one. Don’t miss out! It’s on from June 14th until September 4th at Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG.


David Bomberg, The Mud Bath, 1914. Oil on canvas, 152.4 x 224.2 cm. Tate, London, Purchased 1964

David Bomberg, The Mud Bath, 1914. Oil on canvas, 152.4 x 224.2 cm. Tate, London, Purchased 1964

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