A contemporary critic responds to Wyndham Lewis’s ‘Blast’


The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel: Spring 1915 by William Roberts

On the eve of the First World War ‘ T.P. Weekly’s John O’London records his response to the recently published first issue of Blast.

July 2nd. —I find it is not necessary to resist extravagant gospels; they cancel each other. Yesterday Futurism, today Vorticism. I should like to know the precise moment at which one becomes a fogey when ism succeeds to ism. Mr Ezra Pound does not make this plain in his “Salutation the Third”, printed in Blast, wherein one reads:

These are they who objected to newness,


They supported the gag and the ring;

A little black BOX contains them.

So shall you be also,

You slut-bellied obstructionist,

You sworn foe to free speech and good letters,

You fungus, you continuous gangrene.

I have seen many who go about with supplication.

Afraid to say how they hate you

HERE is the taste of my BOOT,

CARESS it, lick off the BLACKING.

Ezra’s boot it at least tangible, and inter alia it goes far to fulfil one of the declared aims of the Vorticists, “to destroy politeness “ – Continue reading

A Vorticist row in 1967

Revolution 1915 ('The Crowd')

Found in the letters column of The New Statesman of 21 April 1967 this angry exchange about Vorticism and Wyndham Lewis. The Surrealists were famous for arguing amongst themselves and it is interesting to see the vehemence in this post-Vorticist  argument. Michael Ayrton shows Lewis as a difficult man (others were less kind) and Robert Melville's reply scores a few points - but not a direct hit. It is odd that there was any debate about Nevinson being a Vorticist: he is now seen  with Lewis as their greatest exponent...

Sir, Mr Robert Melville contrives to perpetuate an ugly falsehood when he wrote as it was 'with the connivance of Lewis' that the Tate 'took advantage of the public ignorance of Bomberg's early work and included only a single unrepresentative drawing in the exhibition Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism in 1956 to create the impression that he was one of Lewis's lesser camp followers.' A similar argument was vociferously advanced by and on behalf of William Roberts in 1956. David Sylvester took up Roberts's cudgels in the New Statesman and, in passing, pointed out that Bomberg was not a Vorticist at all, but had simply exhibited with them. Denigrators of Lewis are tenacious but they cannot have it both ways. If Bomberg was not a Vorticist but one of what Mr Roberts called 'the Tail' then he had no special place in the Tate exhibition, which was avowedly concerned with Lewis and Vorticism.

Continue reading

Give Puce a Chance

Thoughts on puce suggested by this (presumably) early 1914 pamphlet. Wyndham Lewis's Vorticist magazine BLAST (aka 'the puce monster') appeared in July of that year, the same month as war broke out and the pamphlet, judging by the title, appeared earlier that year. Was there a load of puce dye offloaded in London at that time, was it the colour of the moment? Is this really puce? Ezra Pound called Blast  “the great MAGENTA cover'd opusculus” The big Bloomsbury dictionary describes puce as 'a brilliant purplish red colour.' Did Wyndham Lewis spot someone hawking the pamphlet in the street, it seems quite possible - even the typography is similar (at least the angular printing...)

The pamphlet (of which I have the cover only) is unknowable, no such title shows at WorldCat or Copac and the title page may have born a different title and possibly the name of an author. A colour that used to be seen in the 1990s 'hot pink' was similar to puce but rather cheap looking; the 1940s Elsa Schiaparelli colour 'shocking pink' is nearer to the mark but puce has a glamour all of its own. A fine copy of the first BLAST is a rare and valuable thing. They usually turn up in distressing shape; as for the war pamphlet it is probably too rare to have real value.

Below is a recently added and obviously modern puce punk publication - of which I know nothing, except it appears to be part of the enviable collection of kunstler Richard Prince. Such material was highly collected a few years back but  the punk artefact looks somehow more dated than the irascible Lewis's 100 year old puce monstrosity…