Sussex Modernism at Two Temple Place


Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion

at Two Temple Place
Until 23rd April 2017

Just upstream of Blackfriars Bridge, a magnificent neo-Gothic mansion sits on the Thames northbank; for most of the year Two Temple Place presents a mysteriously blank face to the public but for a few short months it opens its doors for its annual free Winter exhibition. This year the opulent former estate office of William Waldorf Astor is hosting Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion.

This major new exhibition examines the reasons why radical artists and writers were drawn to the countryside and seaside villages of Sussex in the first half of the 20th century and looks at both the artistic communities they created and the impact they had on the political and creative life of Britain at the time.

The Garden Enclosed by David Jones, 1924 © Tate

Sussex was a major centre for early-20th century modernism and many important artists and collectors made the county both their home and their workplace. Amongst the most famous Sussex homes were Charleston, the house of Bloomsbury Group members Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant and Farley Farm House in Chiddingly, the home of Roland Penrose and Lee Miller. The county also boasts one of the most iconic modernist buildings in the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill which was designed by Serge Chermayeff and Erich Mendelsohn and is now a contemporary art gallery and performance venue. Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion draws on these collections as well as the Sussex museums and galleries with significant holdings of modernist art, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft, Jerwood Gallery in Hastings, Pallant House Gallery in Chichester and Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne.

With over 120 works on show, including paintings, sculpture, drawings, books, furniture and film, the exhibition explores the connections between the different artist communities and the many and varied collaborations between the artists in the region. Modernism in all its forms emanated from these Sussex groups in the first half of the 20th century; everything from the simplicity of the Arts & Crafts movement to the wild imaginings of Surrealism.


Venus and Adonis by Duncan Grant, c.1919 © Tate London

The exhibition has some wonderful works from the giants of 20th century British Modernism who were drawn to and inspired by the Sussex countryside. Works on show include paintings from Eric Ravilious, Edward Burra, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, sculpture from Henry Moore and Eric Gill, decorated furniture from Charleston and even a wonderfully unexpected film about lobsters from László Moholy-Nagy. The exhibition reveals the often bohemian and unconventional lifestyles that characterised these artistic communities as well as the Socialist principles that were central to their political beliefs.

Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion is a brilliant exhibition presenting a fascinating insight into the lives and works of some of Britain’s most experimental artistic innovators of the 20th century. A great show in a magnificent setting. Not to be missed.

Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion is on at Two Temple Place until 23rd April 2017.

Admission: FREE

Opening Hours:
Monday, Thursday – Saturday 10am – 4:30pm
Wednesday Late 10am – 9pm
Sunday 11am – 4:30pm
Closed on Tuesdays

Two Temple Place
Temple Place
London WC2R 3BD



10 thoughts

    1. Yes, I think lots of people visit to see the wonderful building with its great Arts and Crafts interior. The window, and its pair at the other end of the hall, are by Clayton and Bell who also made the nave windows of Truro Cathedral. Really stunning.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. That explains it…. I was breathing the Sussex air for the first 12 years of my life and was a prolific artist in that period! Would love to see this exhibit but sadly too far away!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your fine review. I found the exhibition enjoyable – revelatory and insightful. The building alone is worth a visit. Excellent catalogue, too.

    Good luck your fine blog.


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