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Seaside Modern

Seaside Modern

Art and Life on the Beach

Curated by James Russell

This summer, Hastings Contemporary presents Seaside Modern: Art and Life on the Beach.

With staycations booming and forecasters predicting a surge in the popularity of traditional seaside resorts, curator James Russell takes a fresh look at the popularity of the British seaside in the first half of the 20th century.

Workers took advantage of their newly-gained holidays to flock to the coasts, and young sophisticates cast aside Victorian attitudes to nudity and donned fashionable beachwear. Through their own exploration of the landscapes and inhabitants of the seashore, artists established the British beach as an essential site of the development of Modern British art.

This lively exhibition will feature work by major modern British artists including Paul Nash, LS Lowry, Eileen Agar and Laura Knight, as well as advertising posters and archive photographs.

James Russell is an art historian and curator who enjoys finding new ways of looking at 20th century British art and design. Best-known for the blockbuster exhibition ‘Ravilious’ at Dulwich Picture Gallery, he particularly relishes assembling large-scale exhibitions exploring themes in modern British art.

The Mail on Sunday described ‘Century’ (Jerwood Gallery 2016) as ‘sprightly, uplifting and as bracing as a dip in the English Channel’, and The Observer called his most recent exhibition, ‘Reflection: British Art in an Age of Change’ (Ferens Art Gallery 2019) ‘startling and unmissable’.

James studied History at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and has written a dozen books including Sunday Times Art Book of the Year 2016, ‘The Lost Watercolours of Edward Bawden.’

He lectures independently and for The Arts Society around Britain and beyond.


Main image: William Roberts, The Seaside, 1965-6. Image courtesy of the Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London, © Estate of John David Roberts, courtesy of the William Roberts Society by permission of the Treasury Solicitor.

Film: Art historian James Russell unpacks the ‘missing’ Eric Ravilious watercolour Mackerel Sky at Hastings Contemporary, before hanging it in his exhibition Seaside Modern. Film by George Ravenscroft

Eric Ravilious, Anchor and Boats, 1938. Private collection.
Eric Ravilious, Rye Harbour, 1938. Image courtesy of the Ingram Collection.
Eileen Agar, Photograph of a Beached Tree, taken in Perros Guirec, France, 1936. Photo © Tate