Art Term

The Seven and Five Society

Formed in London in 1919 The Seven and Five Society was initially a traditional group and can be seen as a British manifestation of the return to order that followed the First World War

Ben Nicholson OM, ‘1924 (first abstract painting, Chelsea)’ c.1923–4
Ben Nicholson OM
1924 (first abstract painting, Chelsea) c.1923–4
Tate
© Angela Verren Taunt 2017. All rights reserved, DACS
Dame Barbara Hepworth, ‘Three Forms’ 1935
Dame Barbara Hepworth
Three Forms 1935
Tate
© Bowness
John Piper, ‘Abstract I’ 1935
John Piper
Abstract I 1935
Tate
© Tate

The group’s first exhibition was held in 1920. The exhibition catalogue explained that the society was not formed ‘to advertise a new “ism” – [we] feel that there has of late been too much pioneering along too many lines in altogether too much of a hurry.’ This perfectly encapsulates the ‘return to order’ attitude.

However, in 1924 Ben Nicholson, one of the pioneers of abstract art in Britain, joined the Seven and Five. He was followed by other modernists including Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and later, John Piper. They effectively hijacked the group, expelling the non-modernists. In 1935 they renamed it the Seven and Five Abstract Group and held the first all abstract exhibition in Britain at the Zwemmer Gallery in London.

Related glossary terms

St Ives school, Penwith Society of Arts, unit one