Ivon Hitchens, Curved Barn, 1922, Oil on canvas Pallant House Gallery (Presented by the Artist, 1979) © Estate of Ivon Hitchens
The displays of Modern British art start in the late 19th century with the work of Walter Sickert and his contemporaries. In 1883 Sickert was sent by his mentor Whistler to Paris, where he met Edgar Degas and Post-Impressionist artists such as Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard. Sickert’s art focussed on what he called 'the magic and poetry' of everyday life: urban landscapes in London and Dieppe, figures in seedy domestic interiors and music-hall subjects. Such images were far removed from what Sickert called the 'wriggle-and-chiffon school' of Victorian and Edwardian art.
In 1910 the artist and critic Roger Fry organised the groundbreaking exhibition 'Manet and the Post-Impressionists'. It introduced a shocked British public to the work of Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, André Derain, Aristide Maillol, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Georges Seurat. For many British artists the bold colour and formal balance was a revelation. It was followed in 1912 by 'The Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition,' which also included paintings by the Cubists and the English Bloomsbury Group artists Vanessa Bell, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant. The same year the Italian Futurists, such as Gino Severini, were shown for the first time in London. Their emphasis on modern life, the dynamic sensation of speed and the beauty of the machine also provided stimulus to British artists, in particular the 'Vorticist' Group.