War started, they changed

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David Boyd Haycock at Lamb House Marquee

David Boyd Haycock, historian and writer, came to the Arts Festival’s Lamb House Marquee on Monday September 21, to talk about his book “A Crisis of Brilliance” which features the lives, loves, successes and failures of five students pictured in the photo “Slade School of Art Summer Picnic 1912” – Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Mark Gertler, Richard Nevinson and Dora Carrington, who met at the Slade between 1908 and 1910 before the outbreak of the Great War.

Haycock spoke about the influences on their lives of the eras through which they passed, Victorian and Edwardian, and the way the Great War made them changed people and redefined their lives. For example, Sir Stanley Spencer, one of the most famous, had great problems completing Swan Upping at Cookham, started before the war and finished after it. “My life, my world, had changed” he said.

Paul Nash, another of this group, had local connections, living at Dymchurch, Iden and Rye. This event was sponsored by the Friends of Rye Art Gallery, who have a Paul Nash picture in their permanent collection.

The artists’ styles and approaches to their work varied enormously as their talents developed and included the futurist and  vorticist movements.There were close links with the Bloomsbury set as well.  Known by Roger Fry as the “Young British Artists” of their day, Henry Tonks, their professor of drawing, described them later as the Slade School’s last “crisis of brilliance”.

Haycock gave a fluent and dynamic talk about his book, working from a depth of knowledge of the settings and art movements in which these artist worked and the complicated and tempestuous lives they led. People from the full house stayed behind to purchase signed copies of the book and will be looking forward to reading it for themselves.