William Roberts British, 1895-1980

Born in Hackney, Roberts began his career as a commercial artist at Sir Joseph Causton Ltd. advertising firm and during the evenings he attended classes at St Martin's School of Art. In 1910 he won a scholarship to the Slade School of Art where he met Wadsworth, Kramer, Nevinson and Stanley Spencer. During his travels in France and Italy he became deeply influenced by Cubism. On his return to London he joined Roger Fry's Omega Workshops and began exhibiting at the NEAC. Although he did not join Wyndham Lewis's Rebel Art Centre, in 1914 he was a signatory to the Vorticist manifesto. He contributed to the Vorticist exhibition in London in 1915 and the Vorticist show in New York in 1917. During the First World War he served as an official war artist. Although an early member of the London Group, elected in 1914, he exhibited mostly with the Group during the 1920s and 30s. Reviewing a London Group exhibition in 1922, the Daily Mail observed: 'Mr Roberts, still faithful to the Vorticist gospel, carries abstraction further than most members of the group. He loves to reconstruct the organic world on the principles that rule machinery, and to reconstruct it according to the principles of pure decorative art.' In 1920 he participated in Wyndham Lewis's Group X exhibition at the Mansard Gallery. In 1922 he completed illustrations for T. E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom and his first one-man show was staged at the Chenil Gallery in 1923. From 1925 to 1960 he taught part-time at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. Although he continued with his distinctive cubist style, he began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1952 and was elected a full RA in 1966. In 1965 the Tate Gallery staged a major retrospective exhibition of his work. A comprehensive book about his life and work by Andrew Gibbon Williams was published by Lund Humphries in 2004.