Wadsworth, Edward Alexander (1889–1949) By Hudson, Kitty
Edward Wadsworth played an important role alongside Wyndham Lewis in the short-lived avant-garde movement of Vorticism in 1913–1914. He continued to work in the abstracted, geometric style associated with the movement throughout World War I, though very little work of this period remains other than his woodcuts. After returning to England from active service in 1917, Wadsworth worked on the camouflage of shipping, known as “dazzle painting,” and produced a large canvas entitled Dazzle Ships in Drydock at Liverpool (1919). The 1920s saw Wadsworth turn to the theme for which he is best known: the precise and realistic harbor scenes and maritime still lifes, largely painted in tempera. This highly individual style was often dubbed “surrealist” though Wadsworth did not encourage this association. His compositions became progressively more abstract in the early 1930s and, in 1933, Wadsworth joined the English abstract group “Unit One”; however, the following year he abruptly returned to his familiar marine paintings. Large-scale commissions included paintings for the smoke rooms of the Cunard ship Queen Mary and, during the 1939–1945 war, he produced advertising images for ICI. After 1945 his work tended once again towards the abstract, though always maintaining a link with earlier natural motifs and geometric forms.