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Edward Alexander Wadsworth

 (1889 - 1949)
Edward Alexander Wadsworth was active/lived in England.  Edward Wadsworth is known for modernist, abstract painting; maritime themes.

Edward Alexander Wadsworth

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Biography from the Archives of askART

Edward Alexander Wadsworth (29 October 1889 - 21 June 1949) was an English artist, most famous for his close association with Vorticism.

Wadsworth was born in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire and educated at Fettes College in Edinburgh.  He studied engineering in Munich between 1906-7, where he studied art in his spare time at the Knirr School. This provoked a change of course, attending Bradford School of Art before earning a scholarship to the Slade School of Art*, London.  His contemporaries at the school included Stanley Spencer, CRW Nevinson, Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington and David Bomberg.

His work was included in Roger Fry's second Post-Impressionism Exhibition at The Grafton Galleries, 1912, but he changed allegiance shortly after through friendship with Wyndham Lewis, and exhibited some futurist*-derived paintings at the Futurist Exhibitions at the DorĂ© Gallery. Although a member of the committee that organized a dinner in honour of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1913, he was one of a number of English painters in the nascent avant-garde that became increasingly disenchanted with the Italian's arrogance.  By June of the following year, he was in a group of artists, including Lewis, who jeered Marinetti's public performance of The Battle Of Adrianople.  He was a signatory of the Vorticist* Manifesto published in BLAST the next month, and also supplied a review of Kandinsky's Concerning The Spiritual In Art and images to be reproduced in the magazine.

33 days after the magazine was published, war was declared on Germany.  Vorticism managed to continue into 1915, with a Vorticist Exhibition, June 1915 at the DorĂ© Gallery and a second edition of BLAST published to coincide with the show.  Wadsworth contributed to both, but signed up for the navy shortly after.  His fellow vorticists Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and T. E. Hulme were killed at the front; Bomberg and Lewis found that their belief in the purity of the machine age was seriously challenged by the realities in the trenches; Wadsworth spent the war in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on the island of Mudros until invalided out in 1917, designing dazzle camouflage for allied ships.  Known as Dazzle ships, these vessels weren't camouflaged to become invisible, but instead used ideas derived from Vorticism and Cubism* to confuse enemy U-boats trying to pinpoint the direction and speed of travel. Always a fan of modern ships, Wadsworth was to utilize nautical themes in his art for the rest of his career.

Heralded by the major painting Dazzle Ship In Dry Dock, 1919, Wadsworth moved away from the avant-garde in the 1920s, and adopted a more realistic* style. However, towards the end of his life his work became increasingly strange and surreal, although Wadsworth never had any formal links with the official Surrealist* movement.

Wadsworth died in 1949, and is buried in Brompton Cemetery.  The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University held an exhibition entitled "The Vorticists: Rebel Artists in London and New York, 1914-18" from September 30, 2010 through January 2, 2011 that included his work.

The graphic designer Peter Saville had seen the painting Dazzle Ships In Drydock At Liverpool (1919) by Edward Wadsworth and was struck by the image. After suggesting the idea and title to Andy McCluskey of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Saville carried the theme over to the sleeve design of their album Dazzle Ships.


* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

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About  Edward Alexander Wadsworth

Born:  1889 - Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, England
Died:   1949 - England
Known for:  modernist, abstract painting; maritime themes