Flappers, futurists, Bloomsbury and Putney – Wyndham Lewis's many enemies

Who next for a blast? Wyndham Lewis in 1917, photographed by George Charles Beresford Wyndham Lewis was a painter, poet, publisher and picker of fights. No target was too grand or too trivial: sentimental Victorians and the modern man of government; shark art dealers and the ‘atrocious’ Royal Academy; compilers of honours lists and editors of literary reviews; thin flapper girls and the fat ‘Belgian bumpkins’ of Peter Paul Rubens; men who read detective stories and women who liked bowl-of-apple paintings by second-rate Cézannes. People who lived in Putney. The poet Edith Sitwell, who sat for an unfinished portrait by Lewis, was one of his ‘most hoary, tried and reliable enemies…I do not think I should be exaggerating if I described myself as Miss Edith Sitwell’s favourite enemy .’ Sitwell was a fierce opponent. ‘When worsted in argument, she throws Queensberry Rules to the winds. She once called me Percy.’ He had been born Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882–1957), but was Wyndham by the time he was old enough for Rugby and the Slade. His best enemies were the Bloomsbury Set, those ‘Fitzroy tinkerers’ and conscientious objectors, who spent the war pruning trees and planting gooseberries in Sussex, while he […]

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