Vorticism was an iconoclastic British art movement that attacked traditional British culture. It was formed and shaped, at least in part, in response to other art movements including Futurism.
The Vorticist journal BLAST was published only twice. BLAST: The Review of the Great English Vortex appeared in July 1914 and BLAST: War Number in July 1915. The first issue, shown here, was a vehicle for the Vorticist manifesto and a long list of things to BLAST (the mild, domesticated and provincial) or BLESS (distinctly unromantic ships, English ports, bridges and hairdressers).
BLAST was edited by Wyndham Lewis, a founder member of the Vorticist movement, who also wrote portions of the text.
Futurism and Vorticism
The Vorticists were clearly influenced by Futurism but they also insisted on their differences: while Futurists celebrated the motion and speed of the modern machine, the Vorticists focused on the pure potential of its energy. Wyndham Lewis saw the 'great English vortex' as the centre of a whirlpool or the eye of the storm. It represents, in mechanics, the greatest efficiency.
Vorticists saw this energy as the product of both modernity and the violent boredom inspired by stagnant Victorian culture still lingering in England 14 years after Queen Victoria's death.
What was BLAST’s vision?
BLAST was a battering ram meant to blow away dead ideas and worn-out notions. Its blocks of bold text laid out on the page in new ways were the exact opposite to ornate decorative Victoriana.
The manifesto and BLAST and BLESS lists include deliberate contradictions and rhetorical oppositions. Many of the things blasted are also blessed; Vorticists claim to be mercenaries (soldiers without national allegiance) without a cause; they start from opposite statements and launch their attack on both sides; they mix extreme opposites ('We only want Humour if it has fought like Tragedy; We only want Tragedy if it can clench its side-muscles like hands on its belly, and bring to the surface a laugh like a bomb’). Such contradictions not only support the image of pure rebellious energy, but also distance them from Futurist nationalistic allegiance (and fascism).
Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 a month after the first BLAST was issued. The second and final issue announced the death of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, one of the original Vorticists, who was killed at war in the trenches. Real war exceeded the shock and violence of the Vorticists' rhetorical war and the movement quickly faded.
- Full title:
- 20 June 1914, London
- John Lane
- Periodical / Ephemera / Illustration / Image
- Wyndham Lewis, Edward Wadsworth
- Usage terms
Wyndham Lewis: © Estate of Wyndham Lewis. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.
Edward Wadsworth: © Estate of Edward Wadsworth. All rights reserved, DACS 2016. Except as otherwise permitted by your national copyright laws this material may not be copied or distributed further.
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