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The Seven and Five Society

Art Group

Genre: Research Article

Article by: Dave Roberts - First Published: 4 November 2011

The Seven and Five Society was formed in London in 1919 holding its first exhibition the following year.

Initially it was a conservative group and can be seen as a British manifestation of the return to order that followed the First World War.

The first exhibition catalogue explained that the society was NOT formed 'to advertise a new "ism" . "We feel that there has of late been too much pioneering along too many lines in altogether too much of a hurry."

This perfectly encapsulates the 'return to order' attitude.

In 1924 Ben Nicholson, one of the pioneers of abstract art in Britain, joined the Seven and Five. He was followed by other modernists including Hepworth, Moore and later, Piper. They effectively hijacked the group, expelling the non-modernists.

In 1935 they renamed it the Seven and Five Abstract Group and held the first all abstract exhibition in Britain at the Zwemmer Gallery in London.


From the French: retour à l'ordre

A phenomenon of European art in the years following the First World War.

The term is said to derive from the book of essays by the artist and poet Jean Cocteau, Le rappel a l'ordre, published in 1926.

The First World War administered a huge shock to European society. One of the artistic responses to it was to reject the extreme avant-garde forms of art that had proliferated before the war.

Instead, more reassuring and traditional approaches were adopted. The term 'return to order' is used to describe this phenomenon.

Cubism with its fragmentation of reality was rejected even by its inventors Braque and Picasso. Futurism, with its worship of the machine and its enthusiasm for war, was particularly discredited.

Classicism was an important thread in the return to order, and in the early 1920s Picasso entered a Neo-Classical phase.

Braque painted calm still life and figure pictures which, while still having some Cubist characteristics, were simple and readable.

The former Fauve painter André Derain and many other artists turned to various forms of realism. In Germany Neue Sachlichkeit can be seen as part of the return to order.


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