LONDON.- Dulwich Picture Gallery
s summer exhibition Nash, Nevinson, Spencer, Gertler, Carrington, Bomberg: A Crisis of Brilliance, 1908 1922 (12 June 22 September 2013) brings together some of the best and most innovative works by Paul Nash, C.R.W. Nevinson, Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington and David Bomberg for the first time. It examines the evolution of this influential group who became among the most well-known and distinctive British artists of the early twentieth century.
The exhibition considers the influences and challenges presented to these six young artists during this dramatic period of history. As their talents evolved, members of the group became linked with the Futurists, the Vorticists and the Bloomsbury Group, and befriended the leading writers and intellectuals of the day. However, with the declaration of war in 1914, the comparatively comfortable world these six artists knew changed irrevocably. The exhibition culminates with a selection of their paintings made during and immediately after the Great War, some of which are the most celebrated visual records of the epochal event. The display includes Stanley Spencers acclaimed Unveiling Cookham War Memorial (1922), the first time it has been on display for almost 25 years.
All were students at the Slade School of Art in London, and their contemporaries there included other such gifted and ambitious young talents as Adrian Allinson, John Currie, Maxwell Gordon Lightfoot, Ben Nicholson and Edward Wadsworth. It was, as their teacher of drawing later called it, the schools second and last crisis of brilliance. The first crisis had occurred over a decade earlier. Then, between 1893 and 1901, the Slades crop of gifted young students had included Harold Gilman, Spencer Gore, Augustus and Gwen John, Percy Wyndham Lewis, Ambrose McAvoy and William Orpen.
The show features over 70 original works of art from public and private collections, including paintings, drawings and prints, as well as display cases of original letters, documents and photographs, highlighting the Slade artists complex and fascinating inter-relationships, and their mutual influences. Their story encompasses passionate love affairs, suicide, war and even murder; the show matches the highs and lows of these times with the artworks produced by its protagonists. A number of rarely-seen works are on display. These include Void (1918), one of Paul Nashs very first oil paintings, now in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and The Sea Wall (1919), possibly the first in the series of watercolours he painted at Dymchurch after the war; two of David Bombergs vast early oil paintings, In the Hold (1913-14) and Study for Sappers at Work: A Canadian Tunnelling Company, Hill 60, St Eloi, (1918-19), described at the time as a futurist abortion; and Dora Carringtons The River Pang (1918), painted shortly after she set up home with Lytton Strachey.
The exhibition is curated by David Boyd Haycock and is based on his group biography A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War, published to much acclaim in 2009. In The Guardian, Jenny Uglow wrote We should call for a joint exhibition of their work, to complement the moving portrayal of their lives in this engrossing and enjoyable book. The inclusion of David Bomberg extends Haycocks biography in this presentation, prompting a further consideration of how the groups mutual influences developed.
A Crisis of Brilliance includes a wide range of works from major national collections (including Tate, the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the V&A and the National Gallery of Canada); as well as from regional galleries in Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Oxford, Southampton and Barnsley; and important and rarely seen works from a number of private collections.