Edward Wadsworth – Vorticism

Edward Alexander Wadsworth (29 October 1889 – 21 June 1949) was an English artist, most famous for his close association with Vorticism. He painted, often in tempera, coastal views, abstracts, portraits and still-life. He was also an engraver on wood and copper. In the First World War he designed dazzle camouflage for the Royal Navy, and after the war he continued to paint nautical themes.

English painter. He 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-lifes.

Wadsworth was equally interested in the new vision of the world opened up by air travel. Since so many of his paintings of the Vorticist period have been lost, woodcuts provide a valuable insight into his approach; in his extended series he often looks down on northern industrial centres from far above. This dizzying new perspective enabled him to organise his forms in a remarkably abstract way, even though he retained reference to factory chimneys, railway lines and striped fields.

Wadsworth served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve until invalided out in 1917. Wadsworth’s vast painting of Dazzle-ships in Drydock at Liverpool (3×2.4 m; 1919; Ottawa, N.G.) heralded his return to a more representational way of seeing.

Maritime themes were his 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. He also became a founder-member of Unit one, a group dedicated to promoting the spirit of renewal in British art between the wars. He became an ARA in 1943.