EXHIBITIONS PICTURE OF THE WEEK; Beach Babies (1933). by Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957). Rugby Art Gallery & Museum. (Copyright: Estate of Mrs G A Wyndham Lewis.)

The Birmingham Post (England), June 10, 2000 | Go to article overview

EXHIBITIONS PICTURE OF THE WEEK; Beach Babies (1933). by Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957). Rugby Art Gallery & Museum. (Copyright: Estate of Mrs G A Wyndham Lewis.)


Born in Nova Scotia of an American father and English mother, Wyndham Lewis was educated at Rugby School, winning a scholarship to the Slade School at the age of 16.

He quickly established himself as a leading figure in the brief heyday of the British avant-garde in the years immediately before the First World War. He soon graduated from the Camden Town Group through the Rebel Art Centre, formed with contemporaries like C R W Nevinson, William Roberts and David Bomberg, to become the central figure in Vorticism, the British variant of Cubism and Futurism.

An aggressive iconoclast, Wyndham Lewis edited the Vorticist journal Blast, the fame of which in the history of 20th-century British art is out of all proportion to its lifespan of just two issues.

He was an official war artist during the First World War and, like all his contemporaries, he retreated into a more conservative style during the 1920s.

This painting of sunbathers, apparently unfinished, shows the balance he had struck at this time between the figurative and the abstract.

Beach Babies was bought in 1952 for the Rugby Collection, which the borough council has built up quietly and cannily on a small budget since the 1940s with the aid of independent advisers.

Today it is a substantial representation of 20th-century British art, including works by Paul Nash, Lucien Freud, Leon Kossoff, Paula Rego, Barbara Hepworth, John Hoyland and many others.

Until recently it was without a permanent home, and was on extended loan for 15 years to Warwick Arts Centre, where regular exhibitions were selected from it. Last month it returned home to a new building containing galleries, a museum and library.

The inaugural display of the collection, Reunion, continues until September 2 (Tue, Thu 10am-8pm; Wed, Fri 10am-5pm; Sat 10am-4pm, Sun, Bank Holidays 1pm-5pm). Details 01788 533201.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery 0121 303 2834: Connecting Threads. Ambitious survey of textiles and costumes from the museum's collections, spanning different centuries and cultures. Until June 25 (also incorporating displays at Soho House, Aston Hall, Sarehole Mill and Museum of the Jewellery Quarter until Sep 17). Four Recent Print Donations. New additions to the print collection featuring A S Hartrick, Robert Gaudy, William Gear and Michael Rothenstein. Until Aug 6 (Mon-Thu/Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12.30pm-5pm). Gas Hall: Kingdom of the Soul: German Symbolist Art 1870-1920. The only showing in Britain of a major international exhibition, also showing in Frankfurt and Stockholm, devoted to a period of German art little known here. This is turn-of-the-century Symbolism with a German accent with highly romantic, sometimes morbid, and often erotic images from artists ranging from Arnold Bocklin and Franz von Stuck to the little known Hans Thoma, Ludwig Van Hoffmann and Hans von Marees. Until July 30 (Mon-Thu/Sat 10am-5pm, Sun 12.30pm-5pm. Admission pounds 5 (pounds 3.50) family pounds 14).

Ikon Gallery, Brindleyplace 0121 248 0708: Richard Billingham. The largest exhibition so far devoted to the Birmingham-born photographer whose documentation of his own dysfunctional family in the book Ray's a Laugh earned him instant fame and notoriety when it was published in 1996. …

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EXHIBITIONS PICTURE OF THE WEEK; Beach Babies (1933). by Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957). Rugby Art Gallery & Museum. (Copyright: Estate of Mrs G A Wyndham Lewis.)
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