Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson at V&A Dundee

Until 24 February, Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson’s Le Vieux Port will be featured in Ocean Liners: Speed & Style, at V&A Dundee. The painting integrates the display in its second location, which acts as the opening exhibition for a new outpost of the V&A in Scotland. Nevinson’s view of the seaport of Marseilles, France, thus contributes to the ambitious programme, as announced by the museum:

…to fully explore the design and cultural impact of ocean liners on an international scale focussing on their promotion, engineering, interior design, as well as the lifestyle on board.

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Using a series of geometric planes and blocks, Nevinson has created a fractured space that gives an impression of the French harbour and its surrounding area. The early 20th century stylistic influence of Cubism is clearly evident in the artist’s painting. Nevinson is likely to have seen first-hand Cubist works by Picasso, Braque, and other leading avant-garde artists while studying in Paris (1912–1913).

There is a slight intrigue surrounding the date of this artwork. Seemingly reading as 1910 on the surface of the painting, it is currently believed that the numbers were retouched as a result of conservation. It is likely that the work was painted nearer 1913, when Nevinson was recorded as a regular visitor to Marseilles.

Nevinson worked in a variety of styles across his career. His later work became more traditional in style, including landscapes and flower paintings. His reputation rests primarily on his early work, of which this painting is a distinctive example.

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson attended St John’s Wood School of Art from 1907–8 and the Slade School of Art from 1908–12. He then studied in Paris at the Académie Julian from 1912–13 and engaged with the Cercle Russe. In March 1914, Nevinson became a founder-member of the London Group of artists, and in June 1914, he issued a Futurist manifesto, Vital English Art, with the Italian Futurist artist, Marinetti.

During the First World War, Nevinson served in Flanders and France as an ambulance driver and became a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps. In March 1915, his first war paintings were shown at the London Group; and in June/July that year, he exhibited as a Futurist at an exhibition of Vorticist art. Vorticism was an artistic style acknowledged as a particularly English strand of Cubism and Futurism. Nevinson contributed to the second and last issue of the Vorticist magazine, Blast. In 1916 he was invalided out of the Army and was appointed an Official War Artist in 1917, becoming the first artist to draw from the air as he accompanied flight crews on missions.

Nevinson was created Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur in 1938 and Associate of the Royal Academy in 1939. Suffering deep depression and breakdowns as a result of the outbreak of the Second World War, his health deteriorated and he died in London in October 1946.

Further Information

Ocean Liners: Speed and Style
V&A Dundee
Riverside Esplanade
Dundee, DD1 4EZ

Telephone: +44 (0) 1382 411 611