Poet John Cooper Clarke explores the radical work and philosophy of the Vorticists, an inflammatory but short-lived artistic movement that dragged British art into the modern world.
In the summer of 1914, while Europe imploded, London's art scene burst into life. The Vorticists had arrived - a radical and iconoclastic art movement that wanted to destroy the old and champion the modern. Lead by the pugnacious genius Wyndham Lewis, they declared war on the Victorian hangover which blighted British art. The classist nude and the twee landscape were dead, they claimed, it was time for art to reflect the beauty of the modern industrialised world.
The arrival of the Vorticists was announced by the Blast manifesto, a bright pink sneering lament aimed firmly at the art world. The manifesto contained extensive lists of the things they loved ('Blessed') and hated ('Blasted').
The Vorticists brought more to London than just personal attacks and vitriol. Their radical art was abstract, embracing modernist cubist influences. Jacob Epstein's rock drill was a seminal piece, a statue which integrated man and machine in a warlike expression of power and virility.
The Vorticists are not well known today. Just 33 days after the manifesto was published, war was declared on Germany. The resulting destruction overshadowed Blast's nonconformist demands and the movement's radical energy could never be rekindled.
John Cooper Clarke relives Vorticism, the Edwardian youth movement cut short by cataclysmic events. Speaking to young artists, historians and a 94 year-old Princess, he shines a light on one of the most radical chapters in modern British art.
Producer: Harry Graham
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.