Marking 100 years since Lewis (18 November 1882 – 7 March 1957) was first commissioned as an official war artist in 1917, the exhibition will comprise of more than 160 artworks, books, journals and pamphlets from major public and private, national and international collections. Staged in Imperial War Museums’ centenary year, Wyndham Lewis: Life, Art, War will be IWM’s largest visual arts exhibition to date. The exhibition will also mark 60 years since Wyndham Lewis’s death.
A radical force in British art and literature, Lewis was the founder of Britain’s only true avant-garde movement, Vorticism. Lewis’ life and art encompassed the most violent and chaotic period in human history; from the First World War to the nuclear age. He was a controversial figure whose ideas, opinions and personality inspired, enticed and repelled in equal measure.
From a mythologized birth in Canada, Lewis spent his youth in England and traveled Europe. In 1913, he joined Roger Fry’s Omega Workshops before setting up his own rival group, aptly named The Rebel Art Centre. From there arose Vorticism in 1914, its arresting manifesto BLAST encapsulating the restless mood pervading Britain on the eve of the First World War. Serving as commissioned artillery officer during the conflict, Lewis was appointed an official war artist first for the Canadians and then the British.
Wyndham Lewis: Life, Art, War will be presented through key themes including: The Man of the World, Beyond Action and Reaction, The Enemy, Self-Condemned and Sea Mists.
The exhibition will also chart Lewis’ ‘underground’ period of reflection and reinvention after the First World War, when his career as a writer began in earnest. Wyndham Lewis: Life, Art, War will further chart Lewis’ period of self-imposed exile in North America in the 1940s and his descent into total blindness upon his return to London after the Second World War.
Exhibition highlights include The Crowd (1915), from The Tate, a large oil painting from Lewis’ Vorticist period; The Armada (1937 ) from Vancouver Art Gallery; alongside works from Lewis’ period as an official war artist such as the monumental canvas A Battery Shelled (1919) from Imperial War Museums’ collection.
Richard Slocombe, Senior Historian at IWM and Curator of Wyndham Lewis: Life, Art, War, said:
“One never really gets to the bottom of Wyndham Lewis, he is elusive and contrarian. That’s what makes him so fascinating. Lewis lived through incredibly turbulent times where war, or the threat of war, was ever present. This exhibition will shed light on the work of a highly-gifted, original, but often ignored artist and one of the great personalities of the twentieth century.”
Tickets are now on sale – www.iwm.org.uk