17 March 2017

Sussex Modernism at Two Temple Place

I posted here in 2013 about Artists in Cornwall, the second annual Winter Exhibition held by the Bulldog Trust at Two Temple Place on the Victoria Embankment, London. Their current and sixth show, Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion, brings together some of the art, craft, photography and architectural design which flourished in that area* between 1900 and 1950.

Many people will be aware of the presence of Eric Gill (Icon 1923, below top left) at Ditchling, the Bloomsberries (Duncan Grant, Bathers by the Pond c1920-21, below lower) at Charleston and Roland Penrose and Lee Miller (1952 photograph, below top right, of Henry Moore with Mother and Child 1936-37 – on display at Two Temple Place) at Farley Farm House. However, Sussex’s rural nature combined with its proximity to London would attract other cultured and creative spirits, although the extent to which they were aware of each other’s presence, let alone its influence, is probably unknowable. Nonetheless, it is almost certain that they would all have been conscious of the avant-garde arts of their time and can quite fairly be accommodated under modernism.

The show at Two Temple Place has brought together a fascinating selection of items, many from local collections, revealing Sussex’s twentieth century cultural heritage. Two examples are by Edward Wadsworth from 1940, at the tail end of 1930s English surrealism, Light Section from the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery (below top) and Bronze Ballet from the Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne (below lower):

Other exhibits have come from further afield, like Edward Burra’s Landscape near Rye, 1934-35 (in the poster above). A striking item of furniture on display is the Mae West lips sofa designed in 1938 by Salvador DalĂ­ and Edward James for the latter’s home in West Sussex (below top). The De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea, designed by Mendelsohn and Chermayeff in the mid-1930s and one of the UK’s most important Modernist buildings, is represented by photographs and its original architectural model (below lower):

Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion is a free exhibition and ends on 23 April 2017.

*’Sussex’ consists of the English counties of East and West Sussex bordering the English Channel and the seaside conurbation of Brighton and Hove. The great circle (shortest) route from London to Paris passes through East Sussex, close to the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry route established in the mid-Nineteenth century.

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