'Modern Britain 1900-1960'

Article excerpt

'Modern Britain 1900-1960'

Masterworks from Australian and New Zealand collections

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

15 November 2007-24 February 2008

AN Wilson states in his evocative best seller After the Victorians, 'But one of the sure signs that Britain was finished as a civilization ... was the cultural emptiness of the years 1900-1950.' He explains and softens his stance as the book moves on, but 'cultural emptiness'? An exhibition that includes the works of Francis Bacon, Edward Burra, Louis Dully, Jacob Epstein, Lucian Freud, Augustus John, Henry Moore, Paul Nash, William Nicholson, Walter Sickert, Stanley Spencer, Graham Sutherland, and Percy Wyndham Lewis makes one question this. The National Gallery of Victoria has made this possible. There are the blockbusters of which the 19 Stanley Spencers (see Pl 2), the disturbing Francis Bacon Study from the human body, Edward Burra's Soldiers in a lorry, the sordid Mornington Crescent nude, contre-jour of Walter Sickert; and William Nicholson's portrait The beautiful motorist are only representative. These, and the others of the 250 works of 93 artists, alone would be sufficient to construct a retrospective of international significance, but the NGV uses them to tell the story of what went on in Britain over the 60 years. …