Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957) was a central figure in the history of modernism in as a painter, writer and editor. His Vorticist paintings from 1913 are the first abstract works produced in England, and influenced the development of Suprematism in Russia. Tarr (published in 1918), initiated his career as a satirical novelist, earning the praise of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot and W. B. Yeats. After serving as an artillery officer and official war artist during the First World War, Lewis was unable to revive the avant-garde spirit of Vorticism, though he attempted to do so in a pamphlet advocating the modernisation of London
architecture in 1919 (The Caliph's Design Architects! Where is your Vortex?). Exhibitions of his incisive figurative drawings, cutting-edge abstractions and satirical paintings were not an economic success, and in the early 1920s he devoted himself to study of political theory, anthropology, philosophy and aesthetics, becoming a regular reader in the
British Museum Reading Room. The resulting books, such as The Art of Being Ruled (1926), Time and Western Man (1927), The Lion and the Fox: The Role of the Hero in the Plays of Shakespeare (1927) and Paleface: The Philosophy of the Melting-Pot (1929) created a reputation for him as one of the most important - if wayward - of contemporary thinkers.
The satirical The Apes of God (1930) damaged his standing by its attacks on Bloomsbury and other prominent figures in the arts, and the 1931 Hitler, which argued that in contemporary 'emergency conditions' Hitler might provide the best way forward in Germany damaged it yet further. Isolated and largely ignored, and persisting in advocacy of 'appeasement', Lewis continued to produce some of his greatest masterpieces of painting and fiction during the remainder of the 1930s, culminating in the great portraits of his wife (1937), T. S. Eliot (1938) and Ezra Pound (1939), and the 1937 novel The Revenge for Love. After visiting Berlin in 1937 he produced books attacking Hitler and anti-semitism but decided to leave England for North America on the outbreak of war, hoping to support himself
with portrait-painting. The difficult years he spent there before his return in 1945 are reflected in the 1954 novel, Self Condemned. Lewis went blind in 1951, from the effects of a pituitary tumour. He continued writing fiction and criticism, to renewed acclaim, until his death. He lived to see his visual work honoured by a retrospective exhibition at London's Tate Gallery in 1956, and to hear the BBC broadcast dramatisations of his earlier novels and his fantastic trilogy of novels up-dating Dante's Inferno, The Human Age.