Early 20th Century British Art - Artists Groups

New English Art Club, Fitzroy Street and the Camden Town Group


A leading member of the New English Art Club, the artist and critic Roger Fry, decided to organise major exhibitions of a new generation of French and Continental artists, following in the wake of Impressionism. These included Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Seurat, which Fry gave the collective title of 'Post-Impressionist' in 1910. Another exhibition in 1912 also introduced radical modernist works by Matisse, Picasso, Braque and Russian painters.

These examples can be seen in a work by Roger Fry when he painted his own son Julian between the two Post-Impressionist exhibitions. The more radical artists of the Fitzroy Street Group then reformed as the Camden Town group in 1910 under the leading urban painters, Sickert, Gore and Gilman. Therese Lessore, as Sickert's wife did not join the group, but she continued to draw and paint in sympathy with their principles into the 1920's.

Bloomsbury, Vorticism and WWI


In 1913, Roger Fry formed the Omega Workshop in collaboration with other Bloomsbury artists and intellectuals, which applied the theory and practices of Post-Impressionism to decorative and applied arts, which included the fine artists Duncan Grant, Vanessa Bell, Wyndham Lewis and Nina Hamnett. This was the point reached by the outbreak of WWI in the movement of British art away from traditional narrative subjects, towards a more open and individual perspective.

At the same time Wyndham Lewis made a radical break from 'Post-Impressionist' ideas to set up the Rebel Art Centre and published the magazine 'Blast' (1914-15) for the promotion of 'Vorticism', a movement based on the ideas of French Cubism and Italian Futurism. In opposition to the naturalist origins of Post-Impressionism, these artists were inspired by urban machinery and industrial design, but only organised one one exhibition before the Great War. Examples of these artists in the Ferens can be seen in works by Wadsworth, Nevinson, Roberts and Bomberg, from after the War, by which time they had rejected their more radical ideas.

There are few representations of WWI in the Ferens collection except in the works of artists like Frank Brangwyn, who was not an official War Artist, but made drawings of soldiers in action for various War Services. There is also a sombre memorial panel by Ewart of soldiers standing in a trench.

The London Group


Founded in 1913, the London Group took over the role of exhibiting progressive modern art from the NEAC. The selection committee exhibited the widest range of art movements at the time, including Camden Town, Bloomsbury and Vorticist artists. It was strongly supported and influenced by the ideas of Roger Fry, and included both Harold Gilman and Walter Sickert as Presidents. The first exhibition in 1914 covered the radical works of modernist painters such as Bomberg, Epstein and Gertler, whose works reached a peak of production and development in the 1920s. Other exhibitors were artists inspired by the colourist techniques of French 'Fauve' artists. They included Louise Pickard, Adrian Allinson and Matthew Smith, using emotionally charged colour in bold forms, who were also highly influenced by the masters of colour from the Renaissance and Baroque periods of art.