Not only is Christoper Nevinson famous for his landscape paintings but he is also one of the most famous artists of WWI

Born in Hampstead, North London on 13th August 1889 Christopher Nevinson initially studied at the Slade School of Art, where he befriended Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the leader of the Italian Futurists, as well Percy Wyndham Lewis. As a result Nevinson became one of the first British artists to show an interest in Futurism and Cubism, and his work was included in the Dore Gallery’s 1913 exhibition, ‘Post-Impressionists and Futurists’. However, this was short-lived as Nevinson soon fell out with the Futurists and was then later excluded from the Vorticists movement too.

The war had a major impact on his career and he was celebrated for some of the most enduring trench paintings of The Great War and became an official war artist during WWII. His peacetime work is more often focused on the modern world rather than the natural. Yet landscapes form an important component of his work and during the 1930’s he painted various coastal scenes and landscapes such as this.

Shortly after the end of the war, Nevinson travelled to the United States of America, where he painted a number of powerful images of New York. However, his boasting and exaggerated claims of his war experiences, together with his depressive and temperamental personality, made him many enemies in both the USA and Britain. In 1920, the critic Charles Lewis Hind wrote of Nevinson that ‘It is something, at the age of thirty one, to be among the most discussed, most successful, most promising, most admired and most hated British artists.

However, Nevinson was highly regarded throughout his career and was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur in 1938 and was made an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1939.

Christopher Nevinson

Brighton Beach by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson

This work from the 1930s by Nevinson has an innovative use of perspective, with the mast of a boat cutting across the left foreground and interrupting the coastal scene. All the sails and flags present in the scene appear to be blown back by a gushing coastal wind, and this sense of movement is emphasised once again by the crest of the waves breaking on the shoreline.

Christopher Nevinson

The Lilies of the Café, by Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson

In this painting by Christopher Nevinson, the viewer is transported to the buzzing life of café culture which began to emerge following World War I. This work is reminiscent of the paintings of Henri Toulouse Lautrec; young women sit at a table in a French style interior, depicted in a hazy colour palette. It also recalls Edgar Degas’s L’Absinthe of 1875-6, now in the collection of the Musée D’Orsay in Paris. Here, the artist has applied the pastel to the paper in small dashes. This gives the picture a soft focus, whilst providing an implication of smoky air and dim lighting. The three figures in the picture sit on a bench against the steamy café window, all depicted in colour; Nevinson has cleverly employed grisaille to depict the scene on the other side of the glass. This gives the drawing a sense of depth and a painterly quality.

Did you know…

  • Many of Nevinson’s paintings were collected by London’s Imperial War Museum.
  • He was the son of suffragist Margaret Nevinson and Journalist Henry Nevinson.
  • His work can be found in museums in Aberdeen; Birmingham; Cambridge; Dublin; Leeds; Leicester; Liverpool; London; Manchester; Newcastle-upon-Tyne; Paris; Montreal; New York and Ottawa.


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