Vorticism: avant-garde art at the Tate Britain, London

VorticismIn the years before the outbreak of World War One, European artists developed a variety of different styles to reflect the pace of change and industrialization in what used to be a traditional continent.

Cubism and Futurism were two of the biggest movements. One of the briefest and most vibrant was Vorticism. The Vorticists started around 1913 and focused on the hard lines and quick pace of the machine age.

Now the Tate Britain in London is hosting a major exhibition on the movement called The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World. It brings together more than 100 Vorticist works from all the major players.

One of the leaders of the movement was Wyndham Lewis, although some Vorticists say the only reason he was popularly seen as the leader was because he gave more interviews to the press. He was certainly important, though. Lewis was the founder of the Vorticist journal Blast, the first issue of which had a hot pink cover and featured writings by T.S. Eliot and Ford Madox Ford. A whole section of the exhibition is dedicated to this journal and its groundbreaking design and typography.

Some of the rarer works on display include those from the many women welcomed into Vorticist ranks, a daring move at the time. There are also the Vorticist photos of Alvin Langdon Coburn, often hailed as the first abstract photographs. These photos will blow your mind and hurt your eyes.

%Gallery-126430%While Vorticism was mainly a British movement, this exhibition also explores its influences on the New York modern art scene. In fact, it was an American poet, Ezra Pound, who gave the movement its name.

The output of this movement was remarkably small. Blast only had two issues, and there were only two Vorticist exhibitions. World War One killed some of the Vorticists and left others embittered against the modern world. Yet Vorticism had a major impact on modern art and its works are still discussed and copied today. The two issues of Blast are still in print almost a century after they first appeared. One advantage of its brevity is that an exhibition of this size can encompass a majority of the major works, giving the visitor a full understanding of the meteoric life of one of modern art’s most intriguing avant-garde movements.

The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World opened yesterday and will run until September 4.

[Image of Workshop c. 1914-5, by Wyndham Lewis courtesy of the Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust]