Wadsworth was a major figure in British art of the first half of the
twentieth century. Edward Wadsworth was a painter of marines, marine
still-life, landscapes and abstracts in tempera paints. He was also a
draughtsman, muralist and wood engraver. A number of his mural
decorations were for the ocean liner "Queen Mary". Edward Wadsworth is
most famous for his close association with Vorticism and copying the
Edward Wadsworth was raised in a northern industrial environment that was to appear with great forcefulness in his Vorticist work. Like many other Vorticists, Wadsworth's interest in the machine showed itself at an early age. Under the impact of the Post-Impressionists, he turned for a while to portraiture, beach scenes and still-life's.
Edward Wadsworth was born in Ipswich, Suffolk and was educated at BGS in Bristol. Edward Wadsworth studied engineering in Munich between 1906-1907, where he studied art in his spare time at the Knirr School. This provoked a change of course, attending Bradford School of Art before earning a scholarship to the Slade School of Art, London.
His contemporaries at the school included Stanley Spencer, CRW Nevinson, Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington and David Bomberg.
Edward Wadsworth's painting " The Beached Margin" (shown below) displays nautical objects assembled in bold relief against a marine background of of sea and sand. Using the difficult medium of egg tempera, which Edward Wadsworth mixed himself he is able to show amazing detail. The painting comes close to Surrealism in it's style and clarity. These imaginative geometric creations offer up an intellectual pleasure beyond that of a simple still life painting.
Edward Wadsworth exhibited first with the NEAC in 1911, becoming a member in 1921, and the Friday Club from 1912-1913. In 1913 Wadsworth's work appeared in the second Post-Impressionist Exhibition and he joined the Omega Workshops. When Wyndham Lewis broke from the Omega, Wadsworth followed him and subsequently showed in the Post-Impressionist and Futurist exhibition, Dore Galleries.
In June of 1914, Edward Wadsworth was in a group of artists, including Lewis, who jeered Marinetti's public performance of "The Battle Of Adrianople". Edward Wadsworth was a signatory of the Vorticist Manifesto published in BLAST the next month, and also supplied a review of Wassily Kandinsky's "Concerning The Spiritual In Art" and images to be reproduced in the magazine.
Thirty-Three days after the magazine was published, war was declared on Germany. Vorticism managed to continue into 1915, with a Vorticist Exhibition, June 1915 at the Doré Gallery and a second edition of BLAST published to coincide with the show. Wadsworth contributed to both, but signed up for the navy shortly after.
Edward Wadsworth's fellow vorticists Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and T. E. Hulme were killed at the front; Bomberg and Lewis found that their belief in the purity of the machine age were seriously challenged by the realities in the trenches; Wadsworth spent the war in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on the island of Mudros until invalided out in 1917, designing dazzle camouflage for allied ships. Known as Dazzle ships, these vessels weren't camouflaged to become invisible, but instead used ideas derived from Vorticism and Cubism to confuse enemy U-Boats trying to pinpoint the direction and speed of travel.
Always a fan of modern ships, Wadsworth was to utilize nautical themes in his art for the rest of his career. Wadsworth's vast painting of "Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool" heralded his return to a more representational way of seeing.
Heralded by the major painting Dazzle Ship In Dry Dock, 1919 (shown here),Wadsworth moved away from the avant-garde in the 1920s, and adopted a more realistic style. However, towards the end of his life his work became increasingly strange and surreal, although Wadsworth never had any formal links with the official Surrealist movement. From 1921 Edward Wadsworth made regular visits to France and in 1923, he traveled to Italy.
Maritime themes were Edward Wadsworth's principal subjects in the following period. They led him, at first, in the direction of a more straightforward naturalism. A strain of Surrealist unease and expectancy gradually entered Wadsworth's work. Wadsworth travelled widely and contributed to the Parisian journal Abstraction-Création. Edward Wadsworth also became a founder-member of Unit one, a group dedicated to promoting the spirit of renewal in British art between the wars. Edward Wadsworth became an ARA in 1943. He exhibited widely and his work is represented in public collections including the Tate Gallery. Edward Wadsworth died in 1949, and is buried in Brompton Cemetery.