Vile Bodies,” Vorticism, and Italian Futurism

Notes from Vile Bodies,” Vorticism, and Italian Futurism by Archie Loss

To an observer the English art scene between mid 1910- mid 1920s, Cubism, Vorticism and Futurism blended together to form one aesthetic vision. The distinctions among the three were difficult to make out at the time and even the artists in the movements differed seriously in defining their purposes. What they had in common was their frequently declared difference from the artistic tradition. Vorticism originated in England and was founded by Wyndham Lewis in 1913 in the pages of Blast. Like Futurism, Vorticism attempted to deal both literally and plastic terms with the modern reality. Vorticist art suggested the machinery of modern life that was so important to the Futurist, this was done through the geometric forms which are reminiscent of Cubism. According to Lewis however, Vorticists did not aim to reproduce the quality and or the dynamism that the Futurists aimed for. Lewis wrote “The Vorticist is at his maximum point of energy when stillest” He would try capture not the storm but the calm at its centre.

Vorticist art often anything but still however, and Lewis’ work violate his own principles. Vorticist art is eclectic and at times suggesting Picasso’s work from the period of Cubism before the first World War To others it suggests the works of  Italian Futurists, “especially their so called lines of force”. Both of these components can be seen in Lewis’ abstract work title Composition (see picture below)

Composition 1913 by Wyndham Lewis 1882-1957Although it is more Cubist than Futuristic in feeling, its non objectivity goes even further than any Cubist work had done to that date. Christopher Nevinson’s Returning to the Trenches (see picture below) shows similar fusions of style, but the lines of force are also reminiscent of some Futurists work for example Luigi Russlo’ The Revolt (see picture below).



Loss, A. 1992, “”Vile Bodies,” Vorticism, and Italian Futurism”, Journal of Modern Literature, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 155-164.




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