C.R.W. Nevinson: The Twentieth Century
Painter, printmaker, and avant-garde controversialist, the British artist Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson (1889-1946) is probably best known for his powerful and unflinching depictions of World War I, but this work is just one aspect of an extraordinarily diverse career. The first retrospective of Nevinson’s work held in the United States, this exhibition provided a long-overdue and comprehensive reassessment of his significant contribution to twentieth-century art.
Initially influenced by impressionism and post-impressionism, Nevinson affiliated himself in 1912 with the Italian futurist movement, attracted by its celebration of modernity, technology, and warfare. With characteristic independence, Nevinson developed his own distinctive hybrid futurist style of painting; the finest surviving work of this period, The Arrival, was included in this exhibition.
When World War I broke out, Nevinson went to France as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross. Nevinson’s futurist notion of “the beauty of strife” soon turned to disillusion as he experienced the grim reality of life in the trenches. Released from active service due to illness in 1916, he produced a series of stark and eloquent images which used the vocabulary of modernism to powerfully convey the bleakness and futility of twentieth-century warfare. In June 1917, Nevinson returned to the service as an official war artist.
After the war, Nevinson rejected modernism and turned to more conventional landscapes and cityscapes. Two visits to New York, in 1919 and 1920, resulted in a group of paintings and prints that convey the dynamism and vertiginous scale of the rapidly expanding city. As Fascism spread in Europe in the early 1930s, Nevinson responded to fears about the recurrence of world war with a group of brooding allegorical pictures. His most iconic late work, The Twentieth Century, provided a resonant conclusion to this exhibition.
C.R.W. Nevinson: The Twentieth Century was organized by the Imperial War Museum, London, and curated at the Center by Gillian Forrester, Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings. A full-color catalogue accompanied the exhibition.
Imperial War Museum, London:
October 28, 1999–January 30, 2000
Yale Center for British Art:
February 25–May 7, 2000