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Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One


Ian Darby

The new show at Tate Britain is all about art in the years immediately following the First World War.   

It's a big relief that there's no 'live' theatre or vibrantly annoying war poets. Instead, we get an almost relaxed mix of paintings, sculpture, and possessions.

Despite the scenes of people being blown apart by "mechanised warfare", you can really get stuck into the first two rooms. They're the best spaces in this exhibition. Soaring sculptures contrast with some deeply moving collections of soldiers' belongings. Then it's worth spending a few minutes looking at Charles Sergeant Jagger's 'Soldier Reading a Letter'.

Linger through these early rooms and dance through the rest. It's so brilliantly reflective of the times - the tight discipline gives way to the mad spirit of Blackadder’s General Melchett.

You'll see a really good Braque and a very small Picasso. And, it has to be said, a laughably bad daub of a young man with three pigs.

There are some excellent finds though. William Roberts' ‘The Dance Club' slightly revives you, and Edward Burra’s work is worth a look too.

What's so reassuring about Aftermath is that people in the 1920s were properly messed up. Times really don't change.