Celebrating the Centenary of The London Group

4 November 2013 § Leave a comment

Not necessarily particularly fashionable at the moment, the early 20th century artists movement The London Group is celebrating a hundred years since its foundation. However, most people will be surprised to find that this is not simply a historical movement but a thriving institution that is still happily organising exhibitions and events.
Essentially an amalgamation of the Camden Town group and the English Vorticists, the London Group was set up in 1913 by thirty two artists including Robert Bevan, Henri Gaudier Brzeska, Jacob Epstein, Duncan Grant, Wyndham Lewis, Lucien Pissarro and Walter Sickert, with the very simple state aim ‘to advance public awareness of contemporary visual art by holding exhibitions annually.’ In spite of lacking a ‘home of its own’ it has sustained this unbroken exhibiting record since its inception.4GhettoTheatre1920DavidBomberg
Surviving through 100 years of immense change in the art world it is one of the few remaining exhibiting societies from the early twentieth century to sustain its original principles and structure. This is what they state:
As a member, you know that you are within a body of artists who are interested in, and prioritise, others aesthetic qualities – regardless of your own personal direction. This is the strength of the group, to make space for another, because we all have chosen to elect and be elected by, to exhibit together as a whole regardless of the different factions that compose the group.
For an artist to become part of the London Group will be to value a plurality of viewpoints and to join in its illustrious history. A history that is historic in outlook, as it is always part of the present, part of now. The group does not have hierarchies or notions of linear progression, but is rooted within the democratic principles of care and equality and is prepared to collaborate with any other organisation. 
Gaudier Brzeska Bird Swallowing A Fish
With only around a hundred members it remains an artists only group, entirely self-financed and self-managed it maintains a principled independence from art world interests. New members are elected annually by submission of current work with criteria for membership being “the quality of a maker’s emerging vision and commitment to the Group’s activities.”  I guess that means unsociable artists not welcome!
A Sale At Tattersalls 1911 Robert Bevan
By way of celebration there are a series of events including an excellent exhibition that provides a wonderful overview. Uproar – The First 50 Years of The London Group showing at the Ben Uri Gallery. The exhibition looks from its Camden Town Group roots and the controversy of the early years to the impact of war and the influence of Bloomsbury and  also reveals the contribution of Jewish and women artists and specific artists’ groups ranging from the Vorticists to the Surrealists and the Euston Road School.
London Group Cello Factory

A partner exhibition ‘+100 The London Group Today‘, with responses from The London Group’s current members to ‘Uproar!’ is meanwhile being shown at The Cello Factory, Waterloo, London from 16 November to 13 December.

Uproar – The First 50 Years of The London Group
Until 2 March 2014
Ben Uri Gallery St Johns Wood, 108A Boundary Road, London, NW8 0RH
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