Friday, September 02, 2011

Bless all ports.

Well, summer is over - the coldest for eighteen years apparently and, as The Tate's Vorticism exhibition also comes to an end, it is perhaps excusable to curse the English climate 'for its sins and infections'.  The Vorticist Manifesto blasts our 'flabby sky that can manufacture no snow, but can only drop the sea on us in a drizzle like a poem by Mr. Robert Bridges.'  But at the same time, claims that 'the English Character is based on the Sea' and blesses England's

PORTS, RESTLESS MACHINES OF    | scooped out basins
                                                               | heavy insect dredgers
                                                               | monotonous cranes
                                                               | stations
                                                               | lighthouses, blazing
                                                               |     through the frosty
                                                               |     starlight, cutting the
                                                               |     storm like a cake
                                                               | beaks of infant boats,
                                                               |     side by side,
                                                               | heavy chaos of
                                                               |     wharves,
                                                               | steep walls of
                                                               |     factories
                                                               | womanly town
There follows a list of the great ports, including Newcastle, which is portrayed a few pages later in a Vorticist woodcut by Edward Wadsworth.  The Tate exhibition includes a similar print, called simply Port, and it was a subject Wadsworth would return to throughout his career (although his later harbour views are much less interesting).  During the First World War Wadsworth was involved in the application of dazzle camouflage to allied ships and used this experience in what may be his most famous port scene, Dazzle-ship in Drydock at Liverpool (1919).  Roy Behrens has recently unearthed a photograph of Wadsworth painting this - you can see it on his Camoupedia blog.

 Newcastle, 1914
Edward Wadsworth,

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