The British don’t go in much for self-proclaimed movements, particularly in the arts. They are more comfortable with the idea of the singular artist or groups of friends gathered together in bonhomie and shared views.

Not for us the manifestos of the Continental ‘isms’, with their endless explanations, violent denunciations and exclusive societies.

The one exception are the ‘Vorticists’, the group banded around Wyndham Lewis which exploded on the London scene with a full manifesto and magazine just before the First World War, only to become all-too-quickly subsumed by that terrible conflict and to be forgotten once it was over.

Was this a small flash on the margins of European art, or a brave and distinct British contribution to the modernist revolution that Cubism was wreaking through the art world? The Tate Gallery, together with the Nasher Museum of Art in Duke University in the US and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, would argue its distinctive merits. Not only did the Vorticists form an important movement in British terms, they also served as a significant bridge between the avant-garde movements of Paris and Europe and the US. Their membership was drawn from both sides of the Atlantic, their aims were truly radical and their achievements considerable in their brief period of vitality.


Adrian Hamilton
The Independent