Culture: Contrasting Journey through Story of Art; Terry Grimley Raises Two Cheers for Birmingham's Collection of Early 20th Century British Art

The Birmingham Post (England), May 19, 2003 | Go to article overview

Culture: Contrasting Journey through Story of Art; Terry Grimley Raises Two Cheers for Birmingham's Collection of Early 20th Century British Art


Byline: Terry Grimley

A s Birmingham is the UK's second largest city and largely a creation of the 20th century, it seems reasonable to expect that its museum should house one of the world's best collections of 20th century British art.

It does have a very substantial collection, but much of it was accumulated haphazardly and even passively, with less curatorial commitment or discernment than is evident in the collections of some other cities outside London.

In the last few years more focused collecting has filled some notable post-1945 gaps and substantially strengthened the painting collection representing the last few decades, but the latest selection to go on display in The Waterhall concentrates on the years 1900-1960.

Its starting point is the Camden Town group, the first to reflect the delayed impact of French Post-Impressionism on British art.

Birmingham owns five paintings by Sickert, the linchpin of the group, of which three are shown here. This is a relatively generous representation, but none (with the exception of the interior of the Old Mogul music hall) is a characteristic Camden Town subject or dates from the heyday of the group. Only a rarely-exhibited drawing, Two Women of 1911, reflects Camden Town's spiritual home, the drab north London boarding house.

Other core members, Spencer Gore, Harold Gilman and Robert Bevan, are under-sold by the examples of their work in the collection. This is particularly regrettable in the case of Gilman, in my view one of the greatest of all 20th century British painters who at his best can make Sickert look slipshod.

Gwen John was never a Camden Town painter, but her quiet portraits share a related intimist spirit and common inspiration in French models. Birmingham has a wonderful example, shown here between two vapid paintings by the relatively ungifted Duncan Grant.

If Camden Town is under-represented (it certainly compares poorly with the outstanding collection in Leeds, for example), more avant-garde tendencies from before 1914 are simply invisible.

The most remarkable modernist of this period, David Bomberg, was actually born in Birmingham in 1890, but there is no sign of his amazing pre-war work. Instead, there is a gouache from 1920, reflecting the stylistic experiments which accompanied his return to figuration, and one of the impressive landscapes he painted during three years in Palestine later in the decade.

Birmingham was extraordinarily fortunate in the 1980s to be given two First World War paintings by Bomberg's Slade School contemporary C R W Nevinson in memory of Lawrence Cadbury, who served alongside Nevinson in a Quaker ambulance unit. One of these, La Patrie (once owned by the novelist Arnold Bennett), is included here.

The nearest thing to Vorticism, the British variant of Cubism, in the permanent collection is Edward Wordsworth's 1919 watercolour of Gospel Oak steelworks, given by Sir Barry Jackson. It is supplemented here by a number of Wadsworth's other Black Country images, lent from a private collection.

A later work by former Vorticist Jessica Dissmoor, a cool abstract from the mid1930s, was an astute and inexpensive acquisition a few years ago. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Culture: Contrasting Journey through Story of Art; Terry Grimley Raises Two Cheers for Birmingham's Collection of Early 20th Century British Art
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.