The Modern World During and After the World Wars, C. 1914–1960

Early Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde

What is Vorticism?

Vorticism was a brief but powerful artistic and literary movement that developed in England before World War I. In 1914, the editor of a magazine called Blast, Wyndham Lewis, founded Vorticism, but its name was coined by the American expatriate poet, Ezra Pound. Lewis explained the movement when he wrote, “At the heart of a whirlpool is a great silent place where all the energy is concentrated. And there, at the point of concentration, is The Vorticist” (quoted in Dempsey 111). The goal was to create a uniquely British response to Cubism, Futurism, and Expressionism, and make energetic art that reflected the jarring realities of modern life in the early twentieth century. Visual art representative of Vorticism includes Lewis’ Composition (1913), a dynamic rectilinear abstraction, and a “Vortographic” photo image of Ezra Pound by Alvin Langdon Coburn in 1917. The “Vortoscope” was a process invented by Coburn, who attached a series of mirrors to a camera lens to create pictures with multiple layers.


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