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Modernism on Sea

Art and Culture at the British Seaside


Edited By Lara Feigel and Alexandra Harris

Modernism on Sea brings together writing by some of today’s most exciting seaside critics, curators, filmmakers and scholars, and takes the reader on a journey around the coast of Britain to explore the rich artistic and cultural heritage that can be found there, from St Ives to Scarborough. The authors consider avant-garde art, architecture, film, literature and music, from the early twentieth century to the present, setting the arrival of modernism against the background of seaside tradition.
From the cheeky postcards marvelled at by George Orwell to austere modernist buildings such as the De La Warr Pavilion; from the Camden Town Group’s sojourn in Brighton to John Piper’s ‘Nautical Style’; from Paul Nash’s surrealist benches on the promenade in Swanage to the influence of bunting and deckchairs on the Festival of Britain – Modernism on Sea is a sweeping tour de force which pays tribute to the role of the seaside in shaping British modernism.


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Acknowledgements ix List of Illustrations xi Introduction 1 Lara Feigel and Alexandra Harris Part I Seaside Holidays Kiss Me Quick: The Aesthetics of Excess in 1930s Literature and Film 15 Lara Feigel Morecambe: The Sunset Coast 35 Michael Bracewell Beside the Seaside, Beside the Sea 45 Andrew Kötting Part II Sand and Stucco London to Brighton: The Indian Summer of the Camden Town Group 55 Nicola Moorby ‘Remember Scarborough’: The Sitwells on the Sands 71 Deborah Parsons ‘A Good Time Was Had By All’? Stevie Smith Beside the Seaside 85 William May Part III Seaside Poetics ‘The Purest Ecstasy’: Virginia Woolf and the Sea 101 David Bradshaw Survivals of Ariel: Sea and Form in Sylvia Plath’s Poetry 117 Ben Morgan Part IV Nautical Style In the Nautical Tradition: John Piper 135 Frances Spalding Modernism at Sea: Ocean Liners and the Avant-garde 145 Bruce Peter and Philip Dawson 1930s Architecture and the Cult of the Sun 159 Fred Gray Part V Social Change on the Promenade The Seaside Flâneuse in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Death of the Heart 179 Edwina Keown The Margin of the Printable: Seaside Postcards and Censorship 191 Svetlin Stratiev Postwar Promenade: Pleasure, Reconstruction and the Festival of Britain 201 Paul Rennie Part VI Modernism and After The Destructive Element: Benjamin Britten and Aldeburgh 211 Alan Powers Seaside Ceremonies: Coastal Rites in Twentieth-Century Art 227 Alexandra Harris Notes 245 Index 267

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