Vorticism By Von Cannon, Michael
In 1914, Wyndham Lewis and Ezra Pound began the British avant-garde literary and visual arts movement known as Vorticism. In addition to Lewis and Pound, its members included writers and artists such as Richard Aldington, Lawrence Atkinson, William Roberts, Helen Saunders, Dorothy Shakespear, and Edward Wasworth. David Bomberg, Jacob Epstein, and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska were also associated with the group. Responding to Impressionism, Cubism, and Futurism, the passéism of the British national character, and the rise of World War I, Vorticists produced artwork that emphasized geometric shape, hardness, motion, and power. Pound, who coined the term “vorticism,” referred to the “vortex” as “the point of maximum energy.” By depicting abstract motion and acceleration, they saw themselves as reacting specifically to French Cubism’s reliance on the material world and the speed-fetishism of F.T. Marinetti and the Italian Futurists. Marinetti’s understanding of movement relied on actual machines—cars, airplanes, etc.—whereas other Futurists, such as Umberto Boccioni, sought to explore the interior and exterior sensation of speed by combining abstract and concrete detail. The Vorticist competition with the Futurists was also part of their nationalistic avant-garde campaign. In contrast to what they saw as a reactionary and outdated British literature, Vorticists stressed individuality, attentiveness, and aggression in order to champion a new, modern British nation. Lewis introduced many of these ideas in the short-lived but highly influential magazine, Blast. The Vorticist movement itself disbanded in the early years of World War I.