Artist biography

British painter and writer. In late 1908 Lewis as painting began to publish satirical short stories that take a mechanistic view of human social behaviour, evident in the deliberately clumsy and grotesque figures in his art of the period 1909 to 1912. By 1912 he had developed his own linear vocabulary of forms, indebted to Cubist, Futurist and Expressionist forms, which gives an often ironic visual dimension to the themes of his fiction.

Lewis began to produce a geometrical and semi-abstract art based on machine and architectural forms. This was termed ‘Vorticism' and led to the publication in July 1914 of the magazine Blast. From this period onwards Lewis became obsessed with politics and its implications for art.

During World War I Lewis fought as an artillery officer in France and obtained a commission to paint pictures of the front from the Canadian Government.

Throughout the 1920s, Lewis, posing as the ‘enemy', produced a bewildering quantity and range of work. This imaginative work constitutes the most original body of avant-garde art produced in Britain during the 1920s.

During the 1930s Lewis ran into widespread opposition to his political views, which, although far more intricate and liberal than is usually allowed, have to be described as authoritarian.

Lewis sailed to North America in 1939, eking out a living by painting, writing and lecturing. Lewis returned to London in 1945. A malignant tumour was crushing his optic nerve, and he eventually went blind in 1951, having painted little since the war.

Bibliography
W. Michel: Wyndham Lewis: Paintings and Drawings (London, 1971) [complete cat., incl. preface by H. Kenner]
B. Morrow and B. Lafourcade, eds: A Bibliography of the Writings of Wyndham Lewis (Santa Barbara, 1978)
J. Meyers: The Enemy: A Biography of Wyndham Lewis (London, 1980)
Wyndham Lewis (exh. cat. by J. Farington, Manchester, C.A.G., 1980)

RICHARD HUMPHREYS

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