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

1 of 3
  • Ben Nicholson OM, '1924 (first abstract painting, Chelsea)' circa 1923-4
    Ben Nicholson OM
    1924 (first abstract painting, Chelsea) circa 1923-4
    Oil and pencil on canvas
    support: 554 x 612 mm
    frame: 765 x 825 x 75 mm
    Accepted by H.M. Government in lieu of tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 1986© The Estate of Ben Nicholson. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2002
  • Dame Barbara Hepworth, 'Three Forms' 1935
    Dame Barbara Hepworth
    Three Forms 1935
    Serravezza marble
    © Bowness, Hepworth Estate
  • John Piper, 'Abstract I' 1935
    John Piper
    Abstract I 1935
    Oil on canvas over wood
    support: 917 x 1065 x 50 mm

    Purchased 1954© 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