Artist biography

English painter. Son of H. W. Nevinson, the war correspondent and author. His formative years as a student were spent at the Slade School of Art (1909–12) in London. The Futurist Exhibition of March 1912, held at the Sackville Gallery, London, proved decisive for his development.

Futurism had by now become a catchword in London for anything new and outrageous, and the British avant-garde grew resentful of its influence. Nevinson continued to make Futurist paintings of machine-age London, celebrating the dynamism of the underground Tube trains, the traffic in the Strand, and a Bank Holiday crowd on Hampstead Heath. The advent of World War I changed his mind. Having gone to France with the Red Cross and been invalided home soon afterwards, he announced that he would be using ‘Futurist technique' to express the reality of war in his new work. In subsequent paintings Nevinson confirmed that he saw the Great War essentially as a tragic event. Bleak, outspoken and often angry, his paintings of 1915–16 are among the masterpieces of his career, bravely opposing the prevailing jingoistic tendency. By 1919 he had given up Futurism. Retreating instead to a more traditional vision, he painted lively interpretations of New York, which fuse a lingering love of Futurist angularity with a new respect for naturalistic observation. Nevinson was at his best when dealing with the dynamism and vertiginous scale of big-city life. In later years he concentrated more on pastoral scenes and flower pieces, where a gentler mood prevailed.

Bibliography
P. G. Konody: Modern War Paintings by C. R. W. Nevinson (London, 1917)
O. Sitwell: C. R. W. Nevinson (London, 1925)
R. Cork: Vorticism and Abstract Art in the First Machine Age, 2 vols (London, 1975–6)
Nash and Nevinson in War and Peace (exh. cat., London, Leicester Gals, 1977)
C. R. W. Nevinson: The Great War and After (exh. cat., ed. C. Fox; London, Maclean Gal., 1980)
C. R. W. Nevinson: Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Prints (exh. cat. by E. Knowles, U. Cambridge, Kettle's Yard, 1988)
R. Cork: A Bitter Truth: Avant-garde Art and the Great War (New Haven and London, 1994)

RICHARD CORK

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