Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion
BELL is among artists included in this attractive, smaller exhibition at 2, Temple Place, London WC2, until April 23 (www.twotempleplace.org). Her well-known, but oddly stiff, late self-portrait from the collection at Charleston, painted when she was 79, hangs between two magnificent paintings by Grant, the Seurat-influenced Bathers by the Pond and the Tate’s gorgeous Venus and Adonis (right, 1919). In this instance, Bell does not benefit from the comparison. A pair of the artist’s religious sketches hangs elsewhere in the show.
Despite its title, the exhibition does not suggest that the artists on display—including John Piper, Edward Wadsworth, Eric Gill, Edward Burra, Salvador Dalí, Peggy Angus and Hans Feibusch—discovered a shared catalyst for creativity in the county (or indeed country) of Sussex. Since time immemorial, artists have retreated from the ordinary hurlyburly of life, particularly as lived in busy urban centres, in order to prioritise creative endeavour, sometimes in enclaves of the like-minded, in other instances choosing isolation.
The landscape paintings on show here reveal diverse responses to Sussex, from the hilly background to David Jones’s Madonna and Child in a Landscape to the brooding shadows of Burra’s enigmatic The Churchyard, Rye and the secondary role allotted to the featureless coastline in Wadsworth’s disarming wartime study Bronze Ballet.
Although the threads that connect these works are sometimes slender, many share thoughtprovoking qualities. The inevitability of war overshadows pieces from the 1920s and 1930s; later images suggest a world of uncertainties. For visitors able to watch it in its entirety, Moholynagy’s 1936 film Lobsters includes subversive twists.