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Western art

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Figure composition (Man and woman with two bulldogs)



Percy Wyndham Lewis


18 Nov 1882 - 07 Mar 1957


The eclectic sensibility of Percy Wyndham Lewis equipped him perfectly for his role as the gadfly of the English avant-garde. It was the avowed mission of this painter, writer, publisher and propagandist to radicalise society through art, to 'blow away dead ideas and worn out notions'. Lewis's explosive rhetoric was often only that, but he managed to found the most important British response to European modernism in a movement he named vorticism. Launched with his 1914 periodical 'Blast', vorticism synthesised the cubist and futurist techniques Lewis had been experimenting with previously. This image from 1912 is already precociously vorticist. The essential steeliness of the style is clear. Jagged lines, sharp angles and metallic colours - an overall effect of shattering - comprise its outward features. The transformation of the figures occasioned by this treatment is brutalising and mechanistic. Lewis was none too gentle in his appraisal of human worth. Here, the bulldogs demonstrate more character than their owners.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999.


Other Title

Figure composition (with bulldogs)



Media category


Materials used

pen and ink, watercolour, gouache


31.3 x 21.7 cm sheet; 63.6 x 52.0 x 3.2 cm frame

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased 1983


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Percy Wyndham Lewis

Works in the collection


Shown in 8 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Sir Michael Sadler, pre 1943?, Oxford/England, d'Offay catalogue as Sadleir

The Redfern Gallery, 1949, London/England

Michael Tachmindji, circa 1956-circa 1974, United Kingdom, Tate catalogue [1956] as lent by Michael Tachmindji. Arts Council catalogue [1974] as lent by Michael Tachmindji.

Christie's London, 13 Jun 1980, London/England, 105 [not sold]

Christie's London, 06 Nov 1981, London/England, 71, Modern British and Irish Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture £9000/$16900

Anthony d'Offay Gallery, pre 23 Sep 1983, London/England, Purchased by the AGNSW from Anthony d'Offay Gallery 1983. Purchased from the exhibition 'Wyndham Lewis Drawings and Watercolours 1910-1920', 13 April - 14 May 1983.

Referenced in 14 publications


Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Wyndham Lewis: drawings and watercolours 1910-1920, London, 1983, (colour illus.). 14

Art Gallery of New South Wales, Five years on: a selection of acquisitions 1981-1986, Sydney, 1986, (illus.). 139

Richard Cork, Vorticism and its allies, 'Section 1: The prelude to Vorticism', pg. 35-47, London, 1974, 36. 21

Renée Free, AGNSW Collections, 'The Western Heritage, Renaissance to Twentieth Century', pg. 108-172, Sydney, 1994, 146 (colour illus.).

Renee Free, Art and Australia, 'European Acquisitions: 1972-83', pg. 63-67, Sydney, Spring 1984, cover (colour illus.), 66.

Renée Free, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'European', pg. 36-56, Sydney, 1988, 56 (illus.).

Renée Free, Modernism 1900-1950: prints and drawings from the collection, Sydney, 1994. no catalogue numbers

Ted Gott, Laurie Benson and Sophie Matthiesson, Modern Britain 1900-1960, Melbourne, 2007, 68 (colour illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Western Collection: Works on Paper', pg. 78-92, Sydney, 1999, 89 (colour illus.).

Terence Maloon and Peter Raissis (Editors), Michelangelo to Matisse: drawing the figure, Sydney, 1999, 109 (colour illus.). 57

Walter Michel, Wyndham Lewis: paintings and drawings, London, 1971, (illus.). 62, plate 21

Tate Britain, Wyndham Lewis and Vorticism, Wyndam Lewis: Drawings, London, 1956, 14. 29

Donald Williams and Barbara Vance Wilson, From caves to canvas: an introduction to western art, 'Man, Machines and Movement: Futurism and its followers', pg.225-231, Sydney, 1992, 229 (colour illus.).

Donald Williams and Barbara Vance Wilson, From caves to canvas: an introduction to western art (Second edition), 'Man, Machines and Movement: Futurism, Rayonnism, Skyscrapers', pg.251-266, Sydney, 1998, 225 (colour illus.), 256.