British Art at War: Bomberg, Sickert and Nash follows Andrew Graham-Dixon as he finds out how three British artists, David Bomberg, Walter Sickert and Paul Nash dealt with the cataclysm of the First World War.
Runtime: 60 minutes
British Art at War: Bomberg, Sickert and Nash - William Roberts (painter) - Netflix
William Patrick Roberts (5 June 1895–20 January 1980) was a British artist. In the years before the First World War Roberts was a pioneer, among English artists, in his use of abstract images. In later years he described his approach as that of an “English Cubist”. In the First World War he served as a gunner on the Western Front, and in 1918 became an official war artist. Roberts's first one-man show was at the Chenil Gallery in London in 1923, and a number of his paintings from the twenties were purchased by the Contemporary Art Society for provincial galleries in the UK. In the 1930s it could be argued that Roberts was artistically at the top of his game; but, although his work was exhibited regularly in London and, increasingly, internationally, he always struggled financially. This situation became worse during the Second World War – although Roberts did carry out some commissions as a war artist. Roberts is probably best remembered for the large, complex and colourful compositions that he exhibited annually at the Royal Academy summer exhibition from the 1950s until his death. He had a major retrospective at the Tate Gallery in 1965, and was elected a full member of the Royal Academy in 1966. There has recently been a revival of interest in the work of this artist who always worked outside the mainstream.
British Art at War: Bomberg, Sickert and Nash - The Royal Academy and the "Vortex Pamphlets" - Netflix
In the 1950s, when cutting-edge British art was abstract, Roberts's work was in danger of seeming out of date. Roberts re-evaluated the Royal Academy it as an exhibiting opportunity as it attracted large and diverse crowds that were generally more interested in representational art than in abstraction, and there was good coverage in the press. From this point on Roberts's annual contribution became increasingly sensational – spectacular in scale, in use of colour and in dramatic subject matter. The Temptation of St Anthony (1951), Revolt in the Desert (1952) and The Birth of Venus (1954) dominated the walls of the RA and were a talking point in the press and with the public. Roberts now had a new patron – Ernest Cooper, who ran a chain of health-food shops under the banner the London Health Centre. As well as purchasing a large number of these Royal Academy paintings, Cooper commissioned Roberts to design illustrations for his mail-order catalogues and instructional pamphlets. In 1956 the Tate Gallery held an exhibition entitled Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism, with 150 works by Lewis and a small selection by other artists to give “an indication of the effect of his immediate impact upon his contemporaries”. Roberts was offended that the catalogue “would lead the uninitiated to suppose that the artists designated as 'Other Vorticists' are in some way subservient to Lewis”, and published a series of “Vortex Pamphlets”, in which he railed against the exhibition, the catalogue, the press coverage and the account of his own career contained in Modern English Painters by the Tate's director, John Rothenstein, which appeared at about the same time. Targets of earlier visual satires had included Walter Sickert and Roger Fry. To publicise his own work he also published Some Early Abstract and Cubist Work 1913–1920 (London, 1957), the first of a series of collections of reproductions of his paintings, with somewhat polemical prefaces.
British Art at War: Bomberg, Sickert and Nash - References - Netflix