In the years preceding 1914, David Bomberg, Walter Sickert and Paul Nash set out to paint a new world, but, as the century unfolded, found themselves working in the rubble.
Paul Nash: The Ghosts of War
On 25th May 1917, war artist Paul Nash climbed out of his trench to sketch the battlefields of Flanders near Ypres. So focused was he on his work he tripped and fell back into the trench, breaking his ribs. Stretchered back to England, Nash missed his regiment going over the top at the Battle of Passchendaele. His regiment was wiped out. Nash was scarred by the war and the ghosts of those experiences haunted his work throughout his life. A lover of nature, Nash became one of Britain's most original landscape artists, embracing modern Surrealism and ancient British history, though always tainted by his experiences during two world wars. A private yet charismatic man, he brought British landscape painting into the 20th century with his mixture of the personal and visionary, the beautiful and the shocking. An artist who saw the landscape as not just a world to paint, but a way into his heart and mind.
Walter Sickert and the Theatre of War
Walter Sickert's early career as an actor is long forgotten and he's now remembered for his art. But he never left the stage behind. Always shape-shifting between roles, Sickert's appearance never stayed still. And his art, too, was in perpetual transformation. Dazzlingly original, deeply unsettling, poised on the brink of violence. For most, proof that Sickert is the godfather of modern British art, but for a few at the fringes, evidence he's Jack the Ripper. But Sickert was no perpetrator, just an unflinching witness, notably, to the cataclysm of World War One. Too old to fight in Flanders, Sickert painted edgy, compelling, subtle pictures of those who'd been left behind. He painted people trying to get on with lives that were being shattered by the conflict. Almost alone of his generation, Sickert truly understood that the theatre of war was not confined to the trenches.
David Bomberg: Prophet in No Man's Land
David Bomberg is now recognised as the most startlingly original British painter of his generation, but died in obscurity more than half a century ago. A Jewish immigrant from London's east end, his early modernist works pushed art to its limits. Fighting at the Somme, David Bomberg watched the world splinter and fall apart just like the works of art he had created. Bomberg spent the rest of his life searching for order in an increasingly disordered world, and his wanderings took him as far as Palestine, before he settled at the end of his life in Ronda, Spain. When he died in 1957, embattled and in poverty, he seemed to be no more than a footnote in the history of British art. However, the works that survive David Bomberg tell their own story. Combative and iconoclastic, he remains the most elusively original British painter of the 20th century.