Exhibitions Discussed in the New Age
Located at 38 Cursitor Street off the Chancery Lane in Holborn, The New Age's offices were a short distance from the galleries, cafes, and bookstores where the artists and literati discussed in its pages exhibited and created their work. Their activities took place in a relatively circumscribed space - a visitor to London would have to walk less than half a mile to travel from The New Age offices to most of the galleries frequented by its art critics.
The aesthetic debates presented in The New Age showcased a contest for control over local gallery space, even as their
participants claimed the universal significance of their theories. Discussions of art in The New Age make reference almost exclusively to paintings, sculpture and even drawings that were being shown in London at the time.
Most notably, this is the case with Sickert. He held two one-man drawing shows at the Carfax Gallery, housed in a small basement in Bury Street, St. James, in the months prior to and during the time his work was reproduced in The New Age. Additional Sickert drawings displayed in the magazine we shown at the Carfax Gallery with the Camden Town Group. The inclusion of Sickert's drawings in The New Age lent the artist extra publicity for these shows.
Other correlations exist as well. Russolo's La Revolté, presented in the series of abstract paintings edited by Carter, was featured prominently at the Exhibition of Italian Futurist Painters that opened less than a week later at the nearby Sackville Gallery. Similarly, Epstein's Oscar Wilde Memorial was on display in his central London studio at the time that The New Age printed its photograph, and his drawing, Rock Drill, appeared while a major show of his sculpture and drawings was taking place at the Twenty-One Gallery.
T.E. Hulme also mentions that artists included in "The Contemporary Drawings" series were showing locally: he discusses the London Group Show where Nevinson's The Chauffeur and Wadsworth's Farmyard were exhibited shortly after or contemporaneously with their appearances in The New Age.
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When critics writing for The New Age debated the direction art should take and the principles it should embody, they did so by making reference to exhibits taking place at the time. Those most frequently discussed include:
Manet and the Post-Impressionists, November, 1910 to January, 1911
Featuring a variety of predominantly French artworks from the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Roger Fry's Post-Impressionist Show opened at the Grafton Galleries in November 1910. The exhibition unleashed a torrent of response in the London newspapers, from outrage and hostility to boundless enthusiasm, and critics have seen the show's opening as synonymous with the inception of modern art in Britain. The artists whose works were available for viewing (and for sale) included Matisse, van Gogh, Gauguin and Seurat, as well as Picasso. Cézanne was especially well represented. Chosen by Fry as self-conscious departures from Impressionism, the paintings included were formally diverse, but tended to manifest an interest in color, and an acceptance of the artificiality of pictorial conventions.
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The Camden Town Group at the Carfax Gallery. June, 1911 and December, 1911
Although art historians have come to associate "Camden Town" with the visual style of Walter Sickert – typically small-scale paintings of humble domestic interiors and London cityscapes — these two exhibits featured work by a diverse group of painters.
Wyndham Lewis and Duncan Grant were included, as were Sickert and Augustus John. Called "a parade of interesting individualities merged by unity of purpose into an artistic whole" by New Age art critic Huntly Carter (NA 9.12:272), these shows demonstrated that the Camden Town Group was less a school than a convenient means of procuring exhibition space for wildly differing artists.
Visit the Tate for more information on the Camden Town Group.
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The Camden Town Group and Others. Brighton Public Art Galleries, December, 1913 to January, 1914
The title of this show indicates its difference from the Camden Town Group's earlier exhibitions, "and Others" marks the fissures in the group's membership that were beginning to be felt by the time. It was originally conceived of us broadly inclusive – an orientation towards the "modern" and identifying as English were the only requirements for participating.
Before the show's opening, however, the works of five painters and one sculptor were placed in a separate room, dubbed "The Cubist Room," for which Wyndham Lewis wrote an Independent catalogue. Here, the differences between the neo-realist works of Sickert and has followers and Lewis's more geometric style were ossified into distinct ways of conceiving modern British art.
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Jacob Epstein at the Twenty-One Gallery, December, 1913.
This was Epstein's first solo exhibition. Though small, it inspired a critical response that was far out of proportion to its size.
Displaying the Carvings in Flenite sculptures, which presented pregnant female forms, as well as the suggestively phallic drawing, Rock Drill, the show outraged reviewers who saw it as obscene and "primitive."
In response, Epstein's works were passionately defended in The New Age by Wyndham Lewis and by T. E. Hulme, who wrote that Epstein's genius lay in his "extracting afresh, from outside reality, a new means of expression" (NA 14.9:252).