DETAIL : John Singer SARGENT, The fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy 1907, The Art Institute of Chicago, American Art Collection DETAIL : John Singer SARGENT, Almina, daughter of Asher Wertheimer 1908, Tate, London, presented by the widow and family of Asher Wertheimer in accordance with his wishes in 1922
Left Arrow Graphic Gallery

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Modern art and modern life

Edward VII died on the 6th of May 1910 and his son George became King, but the hedonistic atmosphere of the Edwardian era continued for a few more years. During this period artists increasingly used bold colour and decorative design to express their response to the modern world.

We had the Post-Impressionists’ exhibition ... another thrilling experience ...
it was rather a shock, because I had been trained to draw the figure realistically,
and of course, with the Gauguins, the form was very simplified ...
But the colour was thrilling.

Thea Proctor, interview with Hazel de Berg (1961)

Modern art in Britain is said to have begun in 1910, the year that Roger Fry’s Manet and the Post-Impressionists exhibition was shown at the Grafton Galleries, London. The English Post-Impressionists simplified their scenes into flat patterns, using vibrant colours.

I feel sorry for anyone who did not see Diaghilev’s first seasons … it gave me the feeling of being born again into a new and glamorous world, with complete satisfaction for every aesthetic sense.
Laura Knight Oil paint and grease paint (1936)

In 1911 Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes performed at Covent Garden. The British art world and high society were caught up in a wave of enthusiasm, viewing the ballet as a ‘Post-Impressionist picture put in motion’.

End of an era

The plunge of civilisation into this abyss of blood and darkness…
is a thing that so gives away the whole long age during which we have supposed the world to be…
gradually bettering, that to have to take it all now for what the treacherous years were all the while making
for and meaning is too tragic for any words.

Henry James 1914 in The letters of Henry James (1920)

For many Edwardians the years immediately before the First World War were ones of suspended action, dislocation and psychological tension, however, the outbreak war in August 1914 utterly destroyed their secrets and desires. Edwardian men, women and children became caught up in a war they couldn’t control, and the Edwardian era came to an end.

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