When the First World War started on 9 August 1914, the Camden Town Group had been defunct for nine months. It had dissolved itself and reformed as the London Group, a new and more diverse exhibiting society that represented truly advanced British art – the Vorticism of Wyndham Lewis, and the authentic modernism of Edward Wadsworth, Jacob Epstein and David Bomberg.
These artistic manoeuvrings took place as the European powers circled round each other in the months leading up to the outbreak of war. For the painters who had formed the Camden Town Group war marked a new subject for their painting. While they did not depict the battlefield, they could record the war on the home front. Many works seem tinged with melancholy and mourning, their beauty contrasting with what we know is going on in the world beyond. The First World War was the first time foreign conflict had a profound effect on the lives of the British public at home, bringing with it enormous social pressures and changes – huge casualty lists, women taking over men’s jobs, and food shortages due to submarine blockades. The Camden Town painters recorded glimpses of these new experiences.