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Before the First World War, six bright young things at the Slade School - C.R.W. Nevinson, Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington, David Bomberg and Paul Nash - faced a unique challenge: how to be modern.

This summer the Dulwich Picture Gallery mounts a show of work by early 20th-century artists C.R.W. Nevinson, Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington, David Bomberg and Paul Nash, a group referred to by Henry Tonks, their drawing tutor at the Slade, as the school’s ‘last crisis of brilliance’.

The show’s curator David Boyd Haycock suggests that the very challenges facing artists immediately before the First World War led them to excel: ‘This generation faced an exciting yet daunting problem: how to be modern. How to respond to the Post-Impressionism of Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse and Picasso or the Futurism of Marinetti whilst remaining loyal to the traditions of Western art they had imbued under Tonks’s eye. Squaring that circle is the great contribution these six figures would make to British art in the first half of the 20th century.’

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