Christopher R. W. Nevinson

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CRW Nevinson
After The Push by CRW Nevinson 1917.JPG
After The Push (1917) (Art.IWM ART 519)
Born 13 August 1889
Hampstead, London
Died 7 October 1946(1946-10-07) (aged 57)
Hampstead, London
Nationality British
Alma mater
Known for painting

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson (13 August 1889–7 October 1946) was a British figure and landscape painter, etcher and lithographer, who was one of the most famous war artists of World War I. He is often referred to by his initials C. R. W. Nevinson, and was also known as Richard.

Early life[edit]

Richard Nevinson was the son of the war correspondent and journalist Henry Nevinson and the suffrage campaigner and writer Margaret Nevinson. Educated at Uppingham School, which he hated, Nevinson went on to study at the St John's Wood School of Art. Inspired by seeing the work of Augustus John, he decided to attend the Slade School of Art, part of University College, London. There his contemporaries included Mark Gertler, Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash and Dora Carrington.[1] Gertler was, for a time, his closest friend and influence, and they formed for a short while a group known as the Neo-Primitives, being deeply influenced by the art of the early Renaissance. However, Gertler and Nevinson subsequently fell out when they both fell in love with Carrington. Whilst at the Slade, Nevinson was advised by the Professor of Drawing, Henry Tonks, to abandon thoughts of an artistic career. Nevinson's war memoir Paint and Prejudice (London, Methuen, 1937), although lively and colourful, is in parts inaccurate, inconsistent, and misleading.[2]


WWII: View of an anti-aircraft battery set in countryside with searchlight beams crossing the sky and attendant soldiers, by C. R. W. Nevinson

On leaving the Slade, Nevinson befriended Marinetti, the leader of the Italian Futurists, and the radical writer and artist Wyndham Lewis, who founded the short-lived Rebel Art Centre, whose members included Edward Wadsworth and Ezra Pound. However, Nevinson fell out with Lewis and the other 'rebel' artists when he attached their names to the Futurist movement. Lewis immediately founded the Vorticists, an avant garde group of artists and writers from which Nevinson was excluded (though he devised the title for the Vorticists' famous magazine, BLAST).

At the outbreak of World War I, Nevinson joined the Friends' Ambulance Unit, which his father had helped to found, and was deeply disturbed by his work tending wounded French soldiers. For a brief period he served as a volunteer ambulance driver (Nov 1914 to Jan 1915) before ill health forced his return to Britain. He used these experiences as the subject matter for a series of powerful paintings which used Futurist techniques to great effect. His fellow artist Walter Sickert wrote at the time that Nevinson's painting La Mitrailleuse, now in the Tate collection, 'will probably remain the most authoritative and concentrated utterance on the war in the history of painting.'[3]

Subsequently Nevinson volunteered for home service with the Royal Army Medical Corps, before being invalided out; he was eventually appointed as an official war artist, though his later paintings, based on a short visit to the Western Front, lacked the same powerful effect as those earlier works which had helped to make him one of the most famous young artists working in England. By 1917, Nevinson was no longer finding Modernist styles adequate for describing the horrors of modern war. Paths of Glory depicts two fallen British soldiers in a field of mud and barbed wire.[4]

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. Roger Fry of the Bloomsbury Group was a particularly virulent critic. In 1920, the critic Lewis Hind observed in his catalogue introduction to an exhibition of Nevinson's recent work: ‘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.’[1] His post-war career, however, was not so distinguished.

Nevinson was credited with holding the first cocktail party in Britain in 1924 by Alec Waugh.[5]



  1. ^ a b David Boyd Haycock (2009). A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War. Old Street Publishing (London). ISBN 978-1-905847-84-6. 
  2. ^ Paul Gough (2010). 'A Terrible Beauty’: British Artists in the First World War. Sansom and Company. 
  3. ^ Sickert, The Burlington Magazine, September/October 1916.
  4. ^ Allan Little (23 June 2014). "The faceless men". BBC News. Retrieved 23 June 2014. 
  5. ^ Felten, Eric (6 October 2007). "St. Louis - Party Central". The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones & Company). p. W4. Retrieved 2007-10-06. 


  • Nevinson, C.R.W. and Konody, Paul G. (1917) Modern War Paintings. London. Grant Richards Limited.
  • Walsh, Michael J.K. (2002). C.R.W. Nevinson: This Cult of Violence. London: Yale University Press.
  • Walsh, Michael J.K. (ed.) (2007). "A Dilemma of English Modernism: Visual and Verbal Politics in the Life and Work of C.R.W. Nevinson (1889-1946)." Newark: University of Delaware Press.
  • Walsh, Michael J.K. Hanging a Rebel: The Life of C.R.W. Nevinson, The Lutterworth Press (2008), ISBN 978-0-7188-3090-8.

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