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Nash, Nevinson, Spencer, Gertler, Carrington, Bomberg

A Crisis of Brilliance, 1908–1923

David Boyd Haycock with essays by Frances Spalding and Alexandra Harris

ISBN: 9781857598186
Size: 280 x 240 mm / 9.5 x 11 in.
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 176
Images: 110

UK £25.00 / US $39.95


  • Published to accompany an exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, currated by the author, 12 June- 22 September 2013


David Bomberg, Dora Carrington, Mark Gertler, Paul Nash, C.R.W. Nevinson and Stanley Spencer – six of the most important and distinctive British artists of the twentieth century – had all been students together at the Slade School of Art in London. They formed part of what their drawing teacher, Henry Tonks, described as the school’s last ‘crisis of brilliance’. For young British artists working in the years immediately before the Great War it was an exciting and demanding time as various Modernist movements fought for precedence: Primitivism, Futurism, Cubism, Vorticism and Expressionism. Each of the six artists found their own distinctive response.

David Boyd Haycock’s group biography, A Crisis of Brilliance, was published to much acclaim in 2009. Jenny Uglow wrote in her review in the Guardian, ‘We should call for a joint exhibition of [their] work, to complement the moving portrayal of their lives in this engrossing and enjoyable book.’

This book marks the fulfilment of that wish. It features Haycock’s selection of 70 works, ranging from their early student drawings, watercolours and oil paintings, to the first great mature works that they made during and immediately after the Great War of 1914–18. It accompanies an exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery, curated by the author, which opens in June 2013.

There are contributions by Frances Spalding, the leading art historian and biographer of the Bloomsbury Group, and by Alexandra Harris, whose Romantic Moderns won the Guardian First Book award in 2010.


David Boyd Haycock is a freelance writer, lecturer and curator specialising in British and European art and culture of the early twentieth century. He is the author of a number of books, including A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War (2009) and I Am Spain (2012).

Frances Spalding is an art historian, critic and biographer. She has written extensively on twentieth-century British art and has published biographies of Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, John Minton, Duncan Grant and Gwen Raverat. In 2000, she joined Newcastle University where she is now Professor of Art History. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art and in 2005 was made a Companion of the British Empire for Services to Literature.

Alexandra Harris is a lecturer and author. Her expertise lies in literature and its relation to art, design, landscape and the history of taste. Her first book, Romantic Moderns (2010) won the Guardian First Book Award and a Somerset Maugham Award. Since then she has also co-edited Modernism on Sea and published Brief Lives: Virginia Woolf. Alexandra also publishes extensively in journals and essay collections and frequently contributes to radio discussion. She currently teaches literature at University of Liverpool.


"The catalogue that accompanies the exhibition is a splendid record of these artists and the progression of their early work. It provides a lively account of both the public reception of the pictures and the artists’ own remarks about them in their letters to each other and to their parents, friends, spouses, and patrons. Essays by David Boyd Haycock, Frances Spalding, and Alexandra Harris complement the texts accompanying the illustrations."
Sarah Lawson, Cassone

"This is the handsome catalogue of the exhibition held at Dulwich Picture Gallery this summer, and I cite it for many reasons but especially because it reveals what a fine artist, particularly as a painter of portraits, Dora Carrington was."
Paul Johnson, The Spectator