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We Are Making a New World

Episode 1 of 3

James Fox looks at British art in the early 20th century, when a radical generation of painters pioneered a style that made sense of the modern experience.

In a major re-calibration of 20th-century British paintings, art historian James Fox argues that British painting from 1910 to 1975 was an extraordinary flowering of genius. He predicts that art historians of the future will rank the period alongside the Golden Ages of Renaissance Italy and Impressionist France.

Drawing upon the work of Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Francis Bacon, Stanley Spencer and David Hockney, among others, Fox explores why, during the 20th century, British painters were often dismissed for being old-fashioned. He reveals how these artists carefully reconciled tradition and modernity, providing a unique creative tension that now makes the period seem so exciting.

Over the course of the three-part series, Fox presents his theory that this period of artistic excellence was closely linked to a dramatic shift in Britain's fortunes. He suggests that the demise of the British Empire, as much as the two world wars, defines Britain's unique take on modern art: a determination to rediscover and cling on to 'Britishness' while the country's territorial assets and global influence fell away.

In the years immediately before and during the First World War, a radical generation of painters determined to eject Victorian sentimentality and nostalgia from their art pioneered a new style of painting that would capture and make sense of the modern experience. Walter Sickert shocked the public by making the low-lives of Camden Town and a brutal murder the subject of his gaze. Wyndham Lewis and David Bomberg broke with centuries of realist tradition, reducing humanity to cold geometric forms. But as the country descended into war, three painters - Christopher Nevinson, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer - reconciled what was best of the avant-garde with Britain's rich painterly tradition to create powerful images of war that would speak to us all.

1 hour

Last on

Mon 8 Jun 2020 00:30

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Role Contributor
Presenter James Fox
Producer Matthew Hill
Director Matthew Hill


  • Mon 11 Jul 2011 21:00
  • Tue 12 Jul 2011 00:00
  • Tue 12 Jul 2011 03:00
  • Thu 14 Jul 2011 01:00
  • Thu 14 Jul 2011 23:00
  • Sat 16 Jul 2011 22:00
  • Fri 22 Jul 2011 00:30
  • Sat 18 May 2013 20:00
  • Sun 19 May 2013 00:20
  • Mon 8 Jun 2020 00:30