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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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Part IVNautical Style


Part IV NAUTICAL STYLE Frances Spalding Frances Spalding is an art historian, critic and biographer. She is Professor of Art History at Newcastle University and also a special- ist in modern British art. Her books include British Art since 1900, a centenary history of the Tate, biographies of the artists Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, John Minton, Duncan Grant, Gwen Raverat and the poet Stevie Smith, and an introduction to the Bloomsbury Group in the National Portrait Gallery’s ‘Insight’ series. Her study of the life and work of John and Myfanwy Piper will be published by Oxford University Press in 2009. In the Nautical Tradition: John Piper ‘bless all ports’ Wyndham Lewis announced in 1914, devoting an entire page to this subject in the first issue of Blast.1 From then on a maritime theme became gradually woven into the developing history of modernist theory and practice. Edward Wadsworth, Lewis’s fellow vorticist, made dockyards and ports a central aspect of his oeuvre, also obtaining an intense feeling for the sea from a few pieces of bleached cork and some seashells. Readers of Le Corbusier’s famous manifesto, Vers une architecture, an English translation of which appeared in 1927, not only learnt that a house is a machine for living in, but were encouraged to see in a steamship (‘a machine for transport’) an ‘important manifestation of temerity, of discipline, of harmony, of a beauty that is calm, vital and strong’.2 His famous desire that form should follow function led him to argue that...

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