To celebrate The London Group’s momentous centenary year in 2013, Ben Uri and The London Group are working together with two simultaneous exhibitions. Ben Uri will curate and host a major historical exhibition, “Uproar!”: The first 50 years of The London Group 1913-1963, examining the first half century in the group’s turbulent history, while The London Group will hold a separate, complementary, contemporary exhibition showcasing work by its current members at The Cello Factory, London SE1.
The London Group exploded onto the British art scene in 1913 as a radical alternative to the art establishment and in the wake of two modernist exhibiting platforms, Frank Rutter's liberal Allied Artists’ Association and The Camden Town Group, headed by Walter Sickert, whose members the new group absorbed. The first minuted meeting took place on 25 October 1913, and Jacob Epstein is credited with coining the Group's name the following month. The opening of the two centenary shows coincides closely with these two significant dates.
The London Group’s controversial early years reflect the upheavals associated with the introduction of early British modernism and the experimental work of many of its members. The ‘uproar’ which followed Mark Gertler’s exhibition ofThe Creation of Eve at The London Group’s third show in 1915 lends its name to the Ben Uri show, which will showcase 50 works by 50 artists. Wherever possible, Ben Uri has selected the most debated works, whether from within its own collection or outside it.
The exhibition will feature artists and works which highlight each decade covering the full range of its history: The London Group’s inception; its Camden Town Group roots, the controversy of the early (particularly First World War) years, Bloomsbury domination in the 1920s; the strong showing of Jewish artists, women artists; Official War Artists; the participation of émigré artists during the 1930s-40s; the ‘shadow of the right’ during the 1930s, avant-garde sculptors, and the contribution of artists’ groups, ranging from the Vorticists to the Surrealists, the Abstract-Creationists and the Euston Road School. Featured artists include ground-breaking early modernists such as Sickert, Fry, Gaudier-Brzeska, Nash, Wadsworth, and more recently, Hepworth, Moore, Chadwick and Kossoff, as well as less-known but equally controversial figures such as Eileen Agar, Rodrigo Moynihan and Jessica Dismorr.
Ben Uri has strong links with The London Group since a significant number of the artists in its collection were involved in the Group’s inception and earliest exhibitions. Prominent among these were many of the ‘Whitechapel Boys’: David Bomberg, Jacob Epstein, Mark Gertler, Jacob Kramer and Bernard Meninsky.
Works have been loaned from prestigious public and private collections across the UK. Institutional lenders include: Aberdeen Art Gallery; the British Council; the British Museum; the Courtauld Gallery; Graves Gallery, Sheffield; the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds; the Hepworth Wakefield; Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; Leeds City Art Gallery; the Lowry, Salford; Manchester City Art Gallery; New Walk Museum & Gallery, Leicester; Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Services; Pallant House, Chichester; Southampton City Art Gallery; the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery at University of Leeds; Stoke on Trent Art Gallery & Museum; Tate; the V&A; the Whitworth Manchester; and the Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead; as well as Annely Juda Fine Art, the Ruth Borchard Collection via Piano Nobile, Ben Uri’s own collection, and a number of rarely-accessed private collections.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 200-page fully-illustrated hardback catalogue distributed by Lund Humphries. Contributors will provide contextual entries for each of the 50 works, in tandem with introductory essays by a number of distinguished scholars in the field of modern British art.