Honest! I didn’t know there was another landscape exhibition at the Leeds Art Gallery! I went to see the 1913 Exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute before it ends on February 17th, not to see more landscapes! Honest!
The 1913 exhibition was OK but small with only a couple of dozen exhibits in three galleries. (It explains why Mike’s review was brief.) I would have been disappointed if it had been the only thing to see. It was not possible to take photographs but the link above shows some of the exhibits. I particularly liked the two sculptures by Alexander Archipenko, who, I am afraid to admit, I had not encountered before. I shall investigate his work further.
Dance – Alexander Archipenko
In view of my current interest in collage (it’s Woman Walking Slowly’s fault!), my favourite was a work by Picasso called ‘Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass and Newspaper’. It was a collage right from the start of Picasso’s and Braque’s experimental work. Unfortunately I cannot find an image of this on the interweb thingy (and even the booklet published in connection with the show doesn’t have an image), so here is my second favourite:
Caryatid – Amedeo Modigliani – Pencil and blue crayon on paper
So like Mike I headed next door to the Leeds Art Gallery. There I found the landscape exhibition to which I have already alluded. It even asked at one point about “An Abstract Landscape?”, and had an excellent phrase referring to British landscape tradition as ‘more sentiment than sediment’.
My main discovery in the Gallery was not in fact an exhibition as such. At the top of the stairs, on the first floor, was a small selection of paintings, plus a couple of sculptures, on display. All the works were the LAG’s own and, after chatting to one of the attendants, got the impression that they were together as a sort of ‘left over’ from an exhibition a couple of years ago, the other works having now gone home.
The works were painted either during or shortly after the First World War and mostly by artists who had seen frontline action. As the information board said “Many artists joined up including David Bomberg, Percy Wyndham Lewis, Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Christopher Nevinson and Edward Wadsworth. Before the war, artists celebrated the machine but they abandoned its aesthetics after seeing its destructive capability. The war’s prolonged duration and the excessive loss of life left people emotionally drained. Afterwards people felt numb …. Lewis’s ‘Praxitella’ has an armoured, emotionless expression while Moore’s ‘Mask’ looks shell-shocked. Conflict scarred the artists who fought.”
Before the war, Lewis was the leader of the Vorticist movement and the editor of ‘Blast’. He served in the Royal Artillery and was deeply affected by it. Praxitella is a portrait of the writer Iris Barry, Lewis’s lover. It is typical of Lewis’s post-war portraiture in its impassiveness. Barry wears protective armour so as not to betray emotion. It was commonly felt that all possible emotion had been expended during the war.
Before the war, Nevinson had established himself as the only British member of the Futurist movement, a rival to English Vorticism. This depiction of the London nightscape from Hungerford Bridge, threatened by air raid, celebrates the beauty of power expressed in the beams of light.
By 1919, Nevinson had given up his commitment to the radical vision of Futurism, retreating instead to a more traditional vision. He painted images which fuse a lingering love of Futurist angularity into more sinuous forms that chime with his respect for naturalistic observation.
Nash‘s painting of the bleak Dymchurch coast in Kent strikes a precarious balance between native tradition and foreign influence. While a focus on landscape was typical of a ‘return to order’ in post-war British art, Nash’s geometric approach to depicting the bay reveals the impact of the art that he had seen in France.
There were several other paintings including more idyllic works produced by people who did not enlist. All in all, an interesting display.