Introductory Panel

Introductory Panel

This exhibition features drawings and paintings that were reproduced in The New Age between 1910 and 1914. A weekly periodical with a wide readership among London intellectuals, and one that imagined itself as providing a neutral platform from which the champions and opponents of various movements in the visual arts could speak, The New Age was uniquely positioned to showcase debates taking place over the nature of "modern" British art at the time.

Modern art has usually been defined by its newness, and within this frame, critics have looked for formal innovations in order to classify artworks in relation to their time, rather than place, of origin. The abstract modern art that critics have made canonical was concerned with universal and transcendent aims, or with rendering concepts visible - not with representing the local details of a particular city or glorifying a historic moment as the cultural heritage of a nation.

The New Age, in contrast, belonged resolutely to the London where it was printed. Its articles on socio-political issues focused on local current events as their relevance to the affairs of the British Empire. The journal's accounts of developments in the art world were also remarkable for their situatedness: its art columns predominantly reviewed local exhibitions and its pages included reproductions of works currently being shown in London. In this way, the artworks featured in The New Age not only participated in a debate over what was modern, they competed for space in the city's galleries and exhibitions, and for the increased sales that this placement would guarantee.

In defining the modern for British art, painters and critics looked to continental (usually French) models, either to imitate or to reject. By providing images of French paintings and accounts of the theoretical precepts they expressed. The New Age served as a vital point of contact between continental aesthetics and domestic practices. And the reproductions of British art in The New Age give us a direct view of British artists' responses. These images can teach us about the traffic of foreign objects into local gallery spaces, the incorporation of foreign theories into British practice, and the search for an art that could express the energies and contradictions of modern London itself.

Introductory Panel