The vorticists were a British avant-garde group formed in London in 1914 with the aim of creating art that expressed the dynamism of the modern world

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  • Wyndham Lewis, 'Workshop' circa 1914-5

    Wyndham Lewis
    Workshop circa 1914-5
    Oil on canvas
    support: 765 x 610 mm frame: 915 x 760 x 75 mm
    Purchased 1974 Wyndham Lewis and the estate of Mrs G A Wyndham Lewis by kind permission of the Wyndham Lewis Memorial Trust (a registered charity)

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  • Sir Jacob Epstein, 'Torso in Metal from 'The Rock Drill'' 1913-14

    Sir Jacob Epstein
    Torso in Metal from 'The Rock Drill' 1913-14
    Bronze
    object: 705 x 584 x 445 mm
    Purchased 1960 The estate of Sir Jacob Epstein

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  • Edward Wadsworth, 'Abstract Composition' 1915

    Edward Wadsworth
    Abstract Composition 1915
    Gouache, pen and pencil on paper
    support: 419 x 343 mm frame: 690 x 530 x 15 mm
    Purchased 1956 The estate of Edward Wadsworth

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Vorticist painting combines cubist fragmentation of reality with hard-edged imagery derived from the machine and the urban environment.

The group was founded by the artist, writer and polemicist, Wyndham Lewis. Their only group exhibition was held in London the following year. Vorticism was launched with the first issue (of two) of the magazine Blast which contained among other material two aggressive manifestos by Lewis ‘blasting’ what he considered to be the effeteness of British art and culture and proclaiming the vorticist aesthetic: ‘The New Vortex plunges to the heart of the Present – we produce a New Living Abstraction’.

It was, in effect, a British equivalent to futurism, although with doctrinal differences, and Lewis was deeply hostile to the futurists. Other artists involved with the group were were Lawrence Atkinson, Jessica Dismorr, Cuthbert Hamilton, William Roberts, Helen Saunders, Edward Wadsworth, and the sculptors Sir Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. David Bomberg was not formally a member of the group but produced major work in a similar style.

The First World War brought vorticism to an end, although in 1920 Lewis made a brief attempt to revive it with Group X.