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Vorticism Collage

Started: 1913

Ended: 1915

"The Vorticist is at his maximum point of energy when stillest."

Wyndham Lewis Signature

Summary of Vorticism

Vorticism blasted onto the London art scene, becoming England's first radical avant-garde group. Embracing contradiction, humor, and ostentatious rhetoric, the Vorticists celebrated the energy and dynamism of the modern machine age and declared an assault on staid British traditions in order to inaugurate a new era where art belonged to all. Rebelling against the genteel semi-abstractions then fashionable among the London bourgeoisie and championed by critics Roger Fry and Clive Bell, the Vorticists developed an abstract style with bold colors, harsh lines, and sharp angles to depict the movement of industrial life. Vorticism encompassed many media, including painting, sculpture, literature, typography, and design in an effort to transform how people interacted with the world. The horrors of World War I, however, dampened their idealization of the machine and dissipated the momentous energy of the group.

Key Ideas

When poet Ezra Pound named the group, he employed the image of the vortex to describe the creative energy brewing around this group of artists. The artists then elaborated on this metaphor of the vortex to animate much of their aesthetic theory. As Wyndham Lewis explained, "You think at once of a whirlpool. At the heart of the whirlpool is a great silent place where all the energy is concentrated; and there at the point of concentration is the Vorticist." The vortex was also the site of artistic creation. Vorticist compositions rely heavily on diagonals that seem to splinter apart and yet remain solidly contained on the picture plane.
Embracing the possibilities of the machine's energy, Vorticism drew on the fragmentation of Cubist composition and the movement championed by the Italian Futurists to develop a style of pared down geometry that evoked both dynamism and a still center.
The Vorticists embraced the machine with all of its productive and destructive possibilities. They abstracted machine-age imagery in their compositions and used clean lines and bright colors to further suggest the hard edges and shiny surfaces of the machine. The horror and destruction of World War I caused many of the Vorticists to reformulate the understanding of the place of the machine in modern life, thus largely ending the movement.
Vorticism Image


Formed and named in 1914, the Vorticist group desired to unsettle England's Victorian attitudes toward art. Painter and author Wyndham Lewis founded the movement of artists and writers in an attempt to represent the energy and vitality of the modern era with what he described as "a new living abstraction." While Vorticism has been called the British version of the Italian Futurist movement, which shared similar influences, Lewis and poet Ezra Pound, who coined the name Vorticism, rejected this correlation.

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