This informative and well conceived set of essays variously (and chronologically) question recent scholarship’s perception of Lewis’s role as an “uncontrolled aggressor” of British Modernism, becoming an aggrieved outsider as Bloomsberries blighted his career with their cavils. Was he playing a longer game than they? These essayists convincingly suggest so, underscoring his position as “anti-war war artist”, who sought to surmount the trauma of the trenches experienced at first hand in 1917 (unlike the Bloomsbury group) in painting, essays and novels designed to focus on the cruel truths of modern mass-culture. His spiky outlook eschewed the bland humanist truisms he considered powerless to deal with dictators and demagoguery. Paul Edwards and Andrew Causey both consider Lewis’s neglected interwar work, linking it to the better known, high profile Vorticist persona and production, and are particularly shrewd on his prescient but uncomfortable manoeuvres as a second world war loomed. With such fine writing it is a shame the illustrations are such a murky disgrace.
David Peters Corbett, Wyndham Lewis and the art of modern war (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998), 261 pp, 40 b/w ills, £40, $64.95 (hb) ISBN 0521561183
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'David Peters Corbett, Wyndham Lewis and the art of modern war (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998), 261 pp, 40 b/w ills, £40, $64.95 (hb) ISBN 0521561183'