DOI link for Introduction
In the four years from 1910 to 1914, in parallel with the social and political ferment of the times, radically new ideas and practices in the visual arts were introduced in Britain. The exhibition organized by Roger Fry in December 1910, 'Manet and the Post-Impressionists', is conventionally taken as the starting-point, while the climax came in the late spring of 1914, with the emergence of a genuine avant-garde movement having its own identifiable form of geometric abstraction and its own vibrant and aggressive magazine, Blast. The movement was 'Vorticism' (belatedly christened by the American poet Ezra Pound even while Blast was in production), now recognized as the high-water mark of modernism in England at least until the 1930s. A Vorticist exhibition was held at the Dore Galleries in London in June 1915, and another in New York in January 1917. Despite the efforts of Pound to maintain the movement's momentum during the First World War, when its leading figures were in the services or working as war artists, by 1919 it was clear that Vorticism could no longer be sustained. The last 'blast' of Vorticism was Wyndham Lewis's 1919 pamphlet, The Caliph's Design: Architects! Where is your Vortex?, which called for the initiation of a modernist architecture in London based on the formal innovations of Vorticist painting, and excoriated both the reactionary classicism of the Parisian rappel à l'ordre and the domesticated formalism of the followers of Roger Fry. But the spirit of 1910-14 could not be revived. Some of the old Vorticist artists, allied to others who shared their dislike of Bloomsbury, formed 'Group X' (which held one exhibition in March 1920), but, aside from some individual, characteristically idiosyncratic, efforts by Lewis in the early 1920s, this was the end of modernism in British art until it was reimported from Europe by a younger generation in the 1930s.