Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper
Thames & Hudson, Limited
, 2010 - Art
- 320 pages
In the 1930s and 1940s, while the battles for modern art and modernsociety were being fought in Paris and Spain, it seemed to some abetrayal that John Betjeman and John Piper were in love with a provincialworld of old churches and tea shops.
Alexandra Harris tells a different story: eclectically, passionately,wittily, urgently, English artists were exploring what it meant to bealive at that moment and in England. They showed that “the modern”need not be at war with the past: constructivists and conservativescould work together, and even the Bauhaus émigré László Moholy-Nagywas beguiled into taking photos for Betjeman’s nostalgic An OxfordUniversity Chest.
A rich network of personal and cultural encounters was the backdropfor a modern English renaissance. This great imaginative projectwas shared by writers, painters, gardeners, architects, critics, andcomposers. Piper abandoned purist abstracts to make collages on theblustery coast; Virginia Woolf wrote in her last novel about a villagepageant on a showery summer day. Evelyn Waugh, Elizabeth Bowen,and the Sitwells are also part of the story, along with Bill Brandt andGraham Sutherland, Eric Ravilious and Cecil Beaton.