Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion

11th July 2017 by in Journal

This exhibition examines why radical artists and writers were drawn to the rolling hills, seaside resorts, and quaint villages of Sussex in the first half of the 20th century and how, in the communities they created, artistic innovation ran hand in-hand with political, sexual and domestic experimentation.

This is the first time I have been to 2 Temple Place, built by William Waldorf Astor in 1895 and what a wonderful place it is, all dark carved panels, a huge staircase and some lovely stained glass windows, a galleon weathervane sits on top of the roof glinting in the winter sun, and as you come into the garden there is a sculpture of what I think is a cow from Farley farmhouse.
The exhibition puts together some of the leading artist from Sussex, tracing the connections and the map of influence of various locations along the south coast. Sussex became attractive to many artists in the interwar years establishing for future generations some very interesting art collections and after 1945, the Surrealists and other continental artists came over to stay and work.

The exhibition is not just about painting but features films, modernist architecture, political thought and writing. You can see over 120 works, paintings, collage, sculpture, typography, photography, letters, ceramics, Mae West lips sofa, a documentary film and also the model of Bexhill De La War Pavilion designed by Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff.
Some of the artists are as follows: Eric Ravilious, Eric Gill, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, David Jones, László Moholy-Nagy, Henry Moore, John Piper, Peggy Angus, Edward Wadsworth, Lee Miller and Edward Burra, the exhibition also acknowledges Edward James, a famous collector of Surrealist art who had a Surrealist house called Monkton.

To complement the exhibition a soundscape has been created by Daniel Mackenzie based around an archive of sounds and readings.
I particularly liked the Edward Burra painting of a skull in a green landscape and a piece of carpet from Edward James’s house depicting his wife’s Tilly Losch footprints which he replaced with dog prints after an acrimonious divorce.

The staff here are very welcoming and informative. A very enjoyable visit, I will definitely go back.

Check out the Sussex galleries and venues involved:
Ditchling Museum of Art+Craft
De La Warr Pavilion
Farley Farm House & Gallery
Pallant House Gallery
Towner Art Gallery

Two Temple Place – London