Music for the children of our time

The Edukators

The angry man of sculpture

Attack on artistic freedom in Russia

Pushing at the edges

The secret life of objects

Porcelain that challenged the world

Bill Brandt

Heaven on Earth: Art from Islamic Lands


The inspiration of Italian cinema


Pissarro in London

Of Villains and Villeins

Piazzas on the eve of destruction

Modernism resurgent

Wilkie - Painter of everyday life

Techno-gothic fusion


Gagarin Way


Vietnam behind the lines

Romney - mirroring the gentry

Caspar David Friedrich - the essential Romantic

The awesome effects of the sublime

Earth & fire

Paul Klee: The nature of creation

John Pilger's Great Eyewitness Photographers

Sarah Medway: In the Realm of the Senses

A glimpse of the Hermitage

Vermeer at the National Gallery

Paul Signac: Travels in France

The other story of British abstract art

Breaking the silence

Century City

Digitising the Hermitage

Ghosts of christmas past

The disasters of war

Picturing the people's game

Picasso as political icon

An art world Schindler

British modernism reclaimed

Brush Power

The modern bronze age

The first museum of modern art

Six women who shook the world

Frances Aviva Blane

Caro's challenge

Ellsworth Kelly at the Tate

Magnum resists the lure of the dollar

Rebel behind the American movement

E-mail to hear about site changes, placing 'update' in body of message



British modernism reclaimed

Modern Britain 1929-1939 at the Design Museum

The notion that the Modern movement was a sterile flower with no relevance to the present is firmly squashed in an inspiring display at London's Design Museum.

Architect Norman Foster and graphic designer Per Arnoldi have integrated a diverse and complex gathering of objects and information around a sinuous "timeline". Events begin with the Wall Street crash of 1929 and end with the outbreak of World War II. The harsh economic and political realities of the day slump and mass unemployment are defied by the creative vision of outstanding architects, painters, sculptors and designers.

It took the political upheaval of the early 1930s for Modernism to break through, having been deferred in Britain for a hundred years, in the view of art historian Alan Powers. Although, as Norman Foster says, Modernism "only really arrived in Britain with these émigrés", it was not confined to the pioneering architects who found aslyum here, having fled Nazi Germany.

Perhaps for the first time we can appreciate the full breadth of Modernism in Britain, through a high-quality assembly of artworks including paintings, sculpture, architectural photography, film, glass and furniture. The clean white lines of the new architecture, its futuristic vision are tempered by a feeling for the human body and sensitivity to materials and colours.

A wide range of media shows the work of talented architects such as Mendelsohn and Chermayeff, Lubetkin and Tecton, Lancelot Keay, Wells Coates and Maxwell Fry who sought to provide modern housing, better health and social facilities for ordinary people. Architects and designers were reaching out for a machine age with advanced technology and mass production. But individual craftsmanship and local peculiarities were also part of the vision as a whole.

Archetypal English artists such as Graham Sutherland, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Eric Gill, Paul Nash and Barbara Hepworth can be seen as part of a broad movement. Some took part in Unit One, a group of painters, sculptors and architects, formed in June 1933 to bring together a specifically English vision with the new ideas from Continental Europe.

This article first appeared in Socialist Future