In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Peter Campbell looks at the Hayward Gallery Thirties showPeter Campbell
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close

The Hayward Gallery has been inwardly transformed – at a reported cost of over £100,000 – to receive the Thirties exhibition, an enterprise on the largest scale, put together by a committee chaired by William Feaver. Modernist white walls mask the emphatic textures and shapes of the interior of the shell, so that Fifties Brutalism encloses Thirties Modern.

But what is displayed in the cases and on the walls is an attempt at total recall. A huge range of objects is thrown together – evidence for a multiplicity of lines of development. This openness emphasises the partiality of those who have told simple tales of the battle of Modernism with reaction, but in making a single exhibition of such disparate material the organisers have also managed to neutralise much of what they show. Buildings like those of Lubetkin or Wells Coates, for instance, were presented as solutions, not creations, and to suggest, as the exhibition must, that other conventions have equal validity undermines the fragile logic that supported their simplicities. A fragment of a Rex Whistler interior, displayed in an alcove, is like a stage set seen with the house-lights up, and embarrassingly flat. The show turns on their heads devices of juxtaposition common in the Thirties. The mixture of photographs and abstract shapes in posters, the surreal intrusion of a mirror into a landscape, or a tailor’s dummy on Brighton Pier, shocked the eye at the time. Here hanging Munnings and Ben Nicholson in the same gallery reduces the work of both to the status of evidence. In this sense the show is like an auctioneer’s gallery – with as common denominator the decade of creation instead of the hour of dispersal.

From the very beginning one has to try to avoid these cancellings-out. The huge, battered model of Lutyens’s unbuilt Catholic cathedral for Liverpool sits just inside the entrance. Like some grand English ode on a Latin theme, it has authority, richness of allusion, and complexity of form. Modern Movement Esperanto is a crisper, thinner utterance, a clear piping without overtones or reverberations – but also without rhetorical sleight-of-hand. One could say that the time has come to see the best in both styles. Both are, after all, now represented in schedules of listed buildings. And that the time has come honestly to enjoy the shine on the rump of a Munnings horse, the discretion of a Nicholson relief, the fresh-as-paint prettiness of a Susie Cooper teapot, the housewifely amateurishness of an Omega Workshops painted table, the wit of a Shell poster: to chuck exclusive theories overboard. The makers could not; perhaps historians now can. Fifty years should be about the time it takes for the intellectual scaffolding around art to decay, fall away, be dismantled. So what, in the context of this show, seems still to stand up without it?

The Thirties-Modern interior, in its fully developed form, does so very well. Contemporary photographs of the Lubetkin and Tecton High Point flats, and of William Lescaze buildings for the Darlington Hall Estate, are still wonderfully convincing. Attempts to make the same style work cheaply do not. Wells Coates’s Minimum Flat was all too easy to translate into something which offered a minimum life. Artist-designed fabrics on the whole do not stand up, artist-designed posters do, although the professional poster designer McKnight Kauffer did the best of the lot. By the Thirties the achievements of Arts and Crafts revivalism were petering out: Edward Johnston and Eric Gill look good, calligraphy after Johnston aimless, laboured and weak. Craft pottery and commercial pottery both stand up very well. Furniture, either in the Gimson tradition, of beautifully-finished joinery with neat carpentered detailing, as practised by Edward Barnsley, or as seen in the work of architect-designers or industrial designers like R.D. Russell, Serge Chermayeff and Betty Joel, looks desirable, although those who knew it when it was new, those who grew up with it, and those who delight in it now for its period flavour may find it so for different reasons. Not that rooms with Duncan Grant prints, curtains patterned in some variation of amoeba and dart or chevron and dot, and Isokon furniture, were very common: the section on photojournalism makes that clear. It sensibly concentrates on the work of a few photographers in particular, James Jarché, Edward Malindinc and Reuben Saidman, who worked for the picture papers that supplied Britain with a serial documentary self-portrait. Their work was often reproduced in the interlocking boxes and circles of composite picture pages, and the catalogue makes a rather heavy-handed comment on the nature of the editorial process by reproducing many of them with their original masking and cropping marks.

What the photographs show is often more rumpled, old-fashioned, and, above all, more various, than the artefacts in the exhibition would lead you to expect. Herring girls and chorus girls, racing men and unemployed ship-builders, don’t look like subscribers to any of the Thirties dreams. One photograph, however, of a rally of ramblers, striding twenty abreast along the Downs, the White Horse of Westbury behind them, look to be Penguin buyers, New Left Book Club members, BBC listeners, to a man. Perhaps for people like them, everything in this exhibition would make sense. They could live in a suburban semi with round-cornered bays and a tiled roof – but believe the future lay with blocks of workers’ flats; accept that a new world should be built, while taking only tentative steps towards transforming their own environment. There are sections of this exhibition which show where their radio programmes were broadcast from, what comic books their children (no doubt secretly) read, what cars they drove, what cinemas they queued at,

The omnivorousness of the show serves painting least well. Sickert’s Edward VIII – painted from a photograph – establishes forward connections with made-image users of the last twenty years and backward ones with Degas. It stands free of, and is uncompromised by, what is around it.

Paintings by Coldstream and the other Euston Road painters seem dim because the mannerisms that went with their attempt to achieve objectivity of Vermeer-like intensity demand some degree of isolation if they are to be properly read. The little oblique dabs of paint and subdued tonality which characterise their pictures seem like the slurring of speech someone might use to hide an accent, not a device to generalise form and emphasise exact spatial intervals. One has to struggle to see that this was a sustained attempt to give figurative painting seriousness and weight. As it is, Wyndham Lewis’s portrait of Stephen Spender upstages a row of portraits by Lamb, Coldstream and John because of its linear clarity and bite, and a Matthew Smith holds your eye by force of juicy paint and saturated colour alone.

Yet thin paint in the work of Stanley Spencer and Paul Nash is part of an Englishness (or rather of two sorts of Englishness) which, even in the context of this kind of show, asserts its right to attention. By substituting bland English skies, and colour and tone not far from those of the English watercolour tradition, for the desert noon or lamplit midnight of Continental Surrealism, Nash absorbed the real strangenesses of English landscape into his pictures – standing stones, hanging woods and ancient earthworks. Later, the new strangeness of vapour trails, crashed bombers and bombed houses was to give him and other English Surrealists just those juxtapositions of inside and out, of oddly assorted objects and empty perspectives, which they had been, often rather too laboriously, inventing.

Stanley Spencer, on the other hand, who invented nothing, and set visions and allegories in his own place of Cookham, used the same thin paint (though brighter) to different ends. Every neat stroke of the brush is a denial of any connection (except perhaps a negative one) between the strength of the vision and the nature of the gesture. In the end, it is the individualists, like Spencer and Burra, not the internationalists, one wants to see more of. A serious reassessment of the relative standing of architects in the Thirties seems possible: it is no longer thought absurd to assert that Lutyens was the greatest English architect of our century, if not the one before. In painting, there is no equivalent. One looks here at the twilight melancholy of Algernon Newton’s London nocturnes, the plastic Cotswold rurality of J.W. Tucker’s ‘Hiking’, its girl map-readers as healthy as the lass in the Horlicks ad, and decides that ‘Great Academy pictures of the Thirties’ is a lollipop of an exhibition one can do without.

Much that is laboriously established here could be understood better by a reading of Evelyn Waugh. The catalogue quotes the description of Poppet Green’s paintings from Put out more flags (‘Eighty years ago her subjects would have been knights in armour, ladies in wimples and distress; fifty years ago “nocturnes”; twenty years ago pierrots and willow trees; now in 1939 they were bodiless heads, green horses, violet grass, seaweed, shells and fungi, neatly executed, conventionally arranged in the manner of Dali’). And think of Charles Ryder’s decorations at Brideshead: ‘There was another painted room, outside under pillars – modern work but, if you ask me, the prettiest in the place; it was the signal office and they made absolute hay of it; rather a shame.’ So those doubtless Rex Whistlerian decorations did not survive the war.

One thinks of other casualties, like the whiteness of the plaster walls of Modern Movement houses, and the hope that posters by painters would sell as well as posters by huxters; and of survivors like paperback books, industrial design and the hand-made pot.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.