1889 – 1949
Edward Wadsworth was born on 29th October 1889 in Cleckheaton, Yorkshire, UK. His family was wealthy, allowing him to travel to Munich to study engineering. However, he found painting to be more interesting, and so after returning to Yorkshire and attending Bradford Art College, he gained a scholarship to the Slade School of Art in London. He atended between 1908-1912, and thus was present there when many other rising stars in the painting world also attended.
He exhibited in various exhibitions including the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition (last month only). He joined the Omega Workshops with Lewis and others in 1913, and left with Lewis after the Ideal Home Exhibition fiasco. He joined the Rebel Art Centre early in 1914, and contributed heavily to BLAST 1, including some woodcuts, illustrations, and, significantly, a review of Kandinsky’s book, “Inner Necessity”.
Wadsworth had been influenced by the Futurists, which can be detected from canvases entitled with such typical Futurist themes as “L’Omnibus” (1913), “The Open Window” (1914) or “A Short Flight” (1914). However, alongside these sits a fabulous oevre of woodcuts that shows a high degree of abstraction, and a classic Vorticist style. It may be true that the subject matter – towns and industrial landscapes – was still entirely within the Futurist programme, but Wadsworth has by now moved away from any underlying Futurist iconography. The woodcuts of “Cleckheaton”, “Newcastle”, “Mytholmroyd” and “Slack Bottom” are now stylistically something completely new. He has taken the Northern landscape and re-engineered it into a new machine-age vision. It is significant that Wadsworth – an engineer by training – was interested in portraying the mechanical and the industrial.
As well as contributing to BLAST 1, he signed the manifesto.
During the First World War, Wadsworth served in the RNVR (Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve). He was invalided out in 1917, whereupon he was employed to implement “dazzle” camouflage patterns on ships. This was a camouflage that was based on the concept that interference patterns painted in a bold way on the ships’ side would, as the theory went, deceive the eye. It is almost impossible to render invisible a very large ship, but it was thought that the rangefinding of an enemy gun could be beaten with such a camouflage. Wadsworth’s implementation of dazzle camouflage appears in paintings and woodcuts that he worked on at this time (1917-1918), including a large one he completed for the Canadian War Memorials Fund.
After the war, and after his days as a Vorticist he turned to figurative work.
He died in London on 21 June 1949.