Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), the self-styled 'Enemy', was arguably the most significant British artist-writer of the twentieth century.
As well as creating a unique oeuvre of paintings and drawings, he wrote short stories, novels, essays and books on philosophy, literature, politics and cultural criticism.
A draughtsman of exceptional skill and verve, he also pioneered cutting-edge modernism in Britain before the First World War, leading the Vorticist movement and editing its typographically startling journal Blast.
Lewis, along wth figures including poet Ezra Pound and sculptor Gaudier-Brzeska, turned London into an international 'vortex' of creative activity.
His cultural revolution was brought to a halt by the First World War, in which he served as an artillery officer and as a major official war artist.
In the twenties and thirties Lewis's output showed an astonishing variety of creative and critical responses to international modernism, while his ideas about politics and culture challenged the liberal consensus of his contemporaries. His ill-judged flirtation with fascist ideology made him a highly controversial figure, yet he had, and has, admirers across the political and artistic spectrum, from Henry Moore to W.H.
Auden, who recognised his enormous talent, energy and influence.
His final years, spent during World War Two in North America, saw no let-up in his activities, although the onset of blindness in the late forties ended his career as a visual artist, and he was able to finish his magnum opus, a metaphysical science fiction trilogy, The Human Age.
Wyndham Lewis is an international figure of perpetual fascination and inspiration, known to too few general readers and misunderstood by many specialists.
Extensively illustrated, this is the first introduction to explore his work as both a writer and painter, and to explain his ideas about art, life and politics.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 80 pages, 40 colour, 20 b/w illustrations
- Publisher: Tate Publishing
- Publication Date: 01/12/2004
- Category: History of art & design styles: from c 1900 -
- ISBN: 9781854375247
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Review by the.ken.petersen
This book is an excellent introduction to a difficult subject. The artist Percy Wyndham Lewis was, at the same time, the most significant British painter, certainly of the twentieth century, but arguably, also of all time. As with most original characters, it is almost impossible to fit him neatly into a box and this, infuriates many people.This little book; it only manages 80 pages, with an extensive index and a rich filling of illustrations, manages to give a surprisingly good flavour of the man and his work, without attempting to squeeze him into any particular category. Lewis was a socialist, but an appeaser of Hitler; he was a futurist but opposed to the slide of art into complete abstraction: in so many ways, he did not fit a stereotype. One of the tests that I give to a book, such as this, is whether it has extinguished my interest in a subject, or whether I will go on to read and experience more of the genre. With Lewis, I can honestly say that this tome has whetted my appetite. I shall be investigating the nearest galleries to have a smattering of his works and looking out for the books which he wrote. This is not the only book that one will ever need on Lewis, it is a smorgasbord, from which to test one's appreciation of the menu - and I know that I am hungry for more!