The Avant-Garde in Interwar England: Medieval Modernism and the London Underground

By Michael T. Saler | Go to book overview

2
A “WARRIOR OF
THE KINGDOM”

Frank Pick's City of Dreams, 1878–1915

Even those who operate fully within commercial civilization, who run their lives by disengaged, instrumental reason, want to have some part in the epiphanies of the creative imagination. These must be confined; they cannot be allowed to break out and realize their full, often anti-moral and usually anti-instrumental, intent. But they must be there.

CHARLES TAYLOR 1

Frank Pick was not a nudist.

MILNER GRAY 2

NO SINGLE INDIVIDUAL DID MORE TO realize, and then to undo, Ruskin and Morris's dream of restoring the unity and the social function of art during the interwar period than Frank Pick. (Figure 2.1) Known to contemporaries as “the Maecenas of our time” 3 as well as the “virtual dictator” 4 of the London Underground, Pick's thought and career demonstrate the centrality of the arts and crafts tradition to the reception and assimilation of modern art in England, as well as the tensions inherent within this pairing that contributed to the breakdown of the matrix of medieval modernism. Like his fellow Yorkshiremen Sir William Rothenstein, Sir Herbert Read, and Sir Michael Sadler, Frank Pick was one of the few to patronize and promote modern art and artists in the interwar period, but he never secured a knighthood despite the significance of his contributions.

Pick exerted great influence while purposely shunning the public spotlight, which helps to explain his relative obscurity; The Manchester Guardian dubbed him the “Khalif of London, ” whose “attractive, idiosyncratic, and very forceful personality is little known to the public except by results.” 5 Yet when he is discussed, his affinity with other modern khalifs has not been missed:

-25-

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The Avant-Garde in Interwar England: Medieval Modernism and the London Underground
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Contents xiii
  • 1 - Framing the Picture 3
  • 2 - Frank Pick's City of Dreams, 1878–1915 25
  • 3 - Modernism and the North of England 44
  • 4 - Morris, the Machine, and Modernism, 1915–1934 61
  • 5 - The Earthly Paradise of the London Underground 92
  • 6 - Educating the Consumer 122
  • 7 - The Return of the Bathing Beauties, 1936–1941 148
  • 8 - The Demise of Medieval Modernism 165
  • Note 177
  • Selected Bibliography 219
  • Index 235
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