Yale Bulletin and Calendar

February 18, 2000Volume 28, Number 21

C.R.W. Nevinson was an ambulance driver with the Red Cross during World War I. He produced a series of images of war, such as this 1917 work, titled "In the Air."

Retrospective exhibit showcases the work
of the once 'most talked about artist' in Britain

The long-neglected contributions of painter and printmaker C.R.W. Nevinson, once called "the most talked-about artist in Britain," will be showcased in a restrospective exhibit of his works opening on Friday, Feb.25, at the Yale Center for British Art.

The show, organized by the Imperial War Museum in London, is the largest and most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to Nevinson and the first retrospective of his work to be held in the United States. The British Art Center will be the only U.S. venue.

The 90 paintings, drawings and prints in the display span the artist's Futurist experiments, his celebrated images of World War I, his atmospheric depictions of New York, London and Paris, and his late apocalyptical images. Many of the works are on loan from private collections and have never before been exhibited in public.

Born in London, Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson (1889-1946) studied at the Slade School, where he was a member of the notorious "coster gang," a group of iconoclastic students. There, the artist became known for his enthusiastic espousal of the avant garde.

Initially influenced by Impressionism and post-Impressionism, Nevinson affiliated himself in 1912 with the Italian Futurist movement, attracted by its celebration of modernity, technology and warfare. His hybrid Futurist style of painting is represented in the show by the 1913 work "The Arrival." In 1914 he and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti co-signed a Futurist manifesto titled "Vital British Art," which provoked a rift with the British avant-garde and led to the formation of the Vorticist movement.

When World War I broke out, Nevinson went to France as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross. Faced with the grim reality of life in the trenches, Nevinson eventually abandoned his Futurist notions of "the beauty of strife" for a modernist approach. When released from active service in 1916 due to illness, he produced a series of stark images exploring the bleakness and futility of 20th-century warfare. His exhibition at the Leicester Galleries that same year was a critical success, with the art critic P.G. Konody proclaiming, "He stands alone, in England, as the painter of modern war." Nevinson returned to the front in June of 1917 as an Official War Artist.

The British Art Center exhibit will feature many of Nevinson's images of the Great War, including "French Troops Resting, Returning to the Trenches" and "Paths of Glory," a work censored by the War Office for its bleak portrayal of conditions in the trenches.

After the war, contending he was "utterly tired of chaos," Nevinson rejected modernism and turned to more conventional landscapes and cityscapes. In the 1930s, as Fascism spread in Europe, the artist responded to fears about the recurrence of world war with a group of allegorical pictures such as "The Twentieth Century," which will be featured in the exhibition.

A display of 20th-century works and documentary material from the British Art Center's collection in the second-floor galleries will accompany the exhibition. A catalogue featuring essays and illustrations of all the works in the show will be available.

The Nevinson retrospective will be on display through Sunday, May 7, as part of the center's "Blast!" celebration of the artists of World War I. Several special events have been scheduled in conjunction with the show, including a talk titled "C.R.W. Nevinson and British Modernism, 1914-30," on Friday, Feb. 25, by David Peters Corbett, senior lecturing in the history of art at The University of York; and another talk, titled "Nevinson in New York," on Wednesday, March 1, by Lisa Messinger, assistant curator in the Department of Modern Art in New York's Metropolitan Museum. Both talks will take place at 4 p.m. Information about future events will appear in the Yale Bulletin & Calendar.

The Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel St., is open to the public free of charge 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. For a recorded listing of weekly museum tours and events, call (203) 432-2800, or visit the center's website at www.yale.edu/ycba.


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