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The Mythic Method: Classicism in British Art 1920-1950

[ Exhibition )

Oil painting by William Roberts. Three female nudes are flanked by two men and a black dog. One man holds an apple and the other holds a shepherd's crook.

William Roberts, The Judgement of Paris, 1933, oil on canvas, 740.5 x 52cm, private collection © Estate of John David Roberts

A major exhibition exploring how Modern British artists drew on classical myth and ideals following the First World War.

The first major exhibition to explore how modern art met with tradition in an era of social and political change in the early 20th century. The exhibition featured art, drawing, sculpture and mural studies from the likes of Vanessa Bell, Wyndham Lewis, Henry Moore and Eric Ravilious .

While modern art might abandon old ideals, in the 1920s and 1930s there was a resurgence of classicism within British art and culture. Both traditional and modernist artists sought to reassert the values of tranquility, reason and order in the chaos after the First World War.

There was a revival of interest in the tradition of mural and tempera paintings depicting classical compositions drawn from mythology and literature. This inclination was also adopted by avant-garde artists who were to turn away from the abstract in favour of an idealised classical style, just as the European modernists including Pablo Picasso, Fernard Léger, Giorgio de Chirico and Gino Severini had done in the 1920s.

The exhibition was curated by Simon Martin, the Gallery’s Director and a specialist in the history of Modern British art.

The catalogue is available from Pallant Bookshop.

What the press said

A treasure trove of surprises *****

Frances Spalding, The Mail on Sunday

A fascinating look at how modern British artists… sought to be innovative

Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Time Saturday Review

Pallant House Gallery tackles a little admired and often ignored convulsion in 20th century art.

Caiti Grove, Country and Town House

Want to know more?

If you’re conducting research into this artist or another aspect of Modern British art and would like to use our library and archive, please contact Sarah Norris, Collections Manager on

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