Picasso & Modern British Art

  • 4th August − 4th November 2012 | Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art | £10 (£7)

Wyndham Lewis

Throughout his career, Wyndham Lewis was a highly knowledgeable though critical admirer of Picasso, and Picasso’s art provided a touchstone, both positive and negative. While travelling in Europe from 1902 to 1908, Lewis encountered the work of Picasso, and perhaps the man himself. The Theatre Manager (1909) by Lewis is thought to be the first work by a British artist to show the influence of Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).

When Lewis returned to London in 1908, he began his career as a painter and writer, creating grotesque drawings with a literary character. These works reflected themes of identity and power that Lewis had explored in his short stories about actors and other marginal figures, types that had been dominant characters in Picasso’s art since the turn of the century.

By 1911 Lewis’ art reflected a deep interest in cubist paintings and Lewis created images characterised by a sharp geometrical quality and distortions of perspective that demonstrate his response to Picasso’s recent work. Although he saw himself as in many respects a ‘pure’ artists, concerned with the formal qualities of painting, Lewis believed narrative was at least implicit in all the greatest art, animating it in subtle and powerful ways. What Lewis shared with Picasso is a tragic sense of the human existence though Lewis’ response was almost always expressed with humour and satire.

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