Kate Lechmere

The Rebel Art Centre,
and Wyndham Lewis


Left: Lechmere was the model for
 Smiling Woman Ascending a Stair
by Wyndham Lewis, 1912.

Kate Lechmere's
"Wyndham Lewis from 1912"

by Jeffrey Meyers

is now available as a free download online:
Journal of Modern Literature
Vol. 10, No.1 (March 1983), pp.158-166
published by: Indiana University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3831204

from: Women that a movement forgot: The Vorticists I
By Brigid Peppin
May 2011, Tate Etc. issue 22: Summer 2011

The Futurist C.R.W. Nevinson, discussing the formation of the Rebel Art Centre with Wyndham Lewis, is reputed to have said: “Let’s not have any of those damned women.” In fact, the centre was financed by Lewis’s then lover, the Cubist painter Kate Lechmere. She paid three months’ rent for the premises, made the soft furnishings and played a crucial role in the genesis of Vorticism by lending Lewis £100 towards printing the first issue of BLAST. Though “blessed” in the journal, she did not sign the manifesto, and was later to describe Dismorr and Saunders (to art historian Richard Cork) as “little lap dogs who wanted to be Lewis’s slaves and do everything for him”. By 1915 she had distanced herself from both Lewis and Vorticism, and no painting by her is known to survive.

from: Lady in the Dark: Iris Barry and the Art of Film
By Robert Sitton
Columbia University Press, 2014, p.55

Alas, the great Vorticist Rebel Art Center proved a bust. "Initially, the Centre had high aspirations," according to William Wees in his study of Vorticism. "Its prospectus made the Rebel Art Centre sound like a mixture of Omega, Kensington Town Hall, the Slade, Saturday afternoons at 19 Fitzroy Street, and the recently closed Cave of the Golden Calf." There were to be lectures by Marinetti, Pound, 'some great innovator in music, Schoenburg or Scriabin,' and others. Some 'short plays or Ombres Chinoise,' dances, and other 'social entertainments' were promised, along with special exhibitions and 'Saturday afternoon meetings of artists from 4 to 6 p.m .' There was also to be 'a Blast evening, or meeting to celebrate the foundation and appearance of the Review in that name,' and at that event, said the prospectus, 'a manifesto of Rebel Art will be read and an address given, to the sound of carefully chosen trumpets.' An ambitious art school was to open on 26 April1914, offering not only drawing and painting, but 'instruction in various forms of applied art, such as painting of screens, fans, lampshades, scarves.  Mr.Wyndham Lewis will visit the studio, as professor, five days a week.'

"A few of the promised activities took place," Wees recounts. "Marinetti appeared, Pound talked on Vorticism (and published a version of the talk in the Fortnightly Review in September 1914), and Ford Madox Ford lectured, only to have his peroration interrupted by Lewis' large Plan of War, which suddenly fell off the wall and on to Ford, knocking the canvas loose and trapping Ford inside the frame. Some 'workshop' items were made and displayed at the Allied Artists' exhibition in June 1914. But the Centre's major project, its art school, never materialized, and Lewis did not get to try out the role of professor of art. Only two applicants turned up, according to Kate Lechmere, 'a man who wished to  improve the design of gas-brackets and a lady pornographer.'"

Kate Lechmere posing
 with her painting
 Buntem Vogel at the
Rebel Art Centre, 1914

from the Evening Standard
March 30, 1914

from Wikipedia Kate Lechmere page:
About January 1914, Lechmere wrote to Wyndham Lewis from France suggesting that they set up a "modern art Studio in London, run on much the same lines as those in Paris". After Lewis and Roger Fry fell out in 1914, Lewis with Lechmere and her money founded the Rebel Art Centre at 38 Great Ormond Street in opposition to Fry's Omega Workshops. Lechmere paid the first three months' rent for the centre, paid to have the interior walls moved in order to create the right sized spaces for studios, and even bought a new suit for Lewis. She lived in a small flat at the top of the building.

Lechmere also lent Lewis £100 to produce the first edition of BLAST. Lewis suggested that she take 50 copies to sell but they had to be returned to the publishers when none sold. She was asked by Lewis to complete a drawing for the first edition of BLAST but due to the difficult atmosphere at the time she could not do so. As compensation she was "blessed" in its pages. She did not sign the Vorticist manifesto.

The Centre attracted plenty of press attention, including a visit from the Evening Standard for which Lechmere posed pretending to finish one of her paintings. When the story appeared it ran with the caption "Artists a disappointment in real life". In fact, she did very little painting at this time as she found the Vorticist aesthetic too abstract and lacking a human dimension.

Kate Lechmere and a friend
sew curtains for the
Rebel Art Centre, 1914
Anthony d'Offay Gallery

In Art Beyond the Gallery [p.195], Richard Cork tells us that the curtains were possibly the design of Cuthbert Hamilton or of Lawrence Atkinson, and that "one alert reporter was surely right in deciding that:
'on a white curtain hung across the room points of purple and cubes of green and yellow, intermingling with spashes of deep rose-red, formed themselves, as one gazed at them, into fantastic human figures.'
(Sarah Roberts interview, 1982, Vorticism and Its Allies)

The Rebel Art Centre from The Daily Mirror, March 30, 1914

Left: Wyndham Lewis; Far Right: Kate Lechmere with the Rebel Art Centre curtains
Middle: (L to R) Hamilton, Wadsworth, Nevinson & Lewis hanging Wadsworth's Caprice


L to R standing:
Wadsworth and Lewis
L to R sitting:
 Hamilton and

Smiling Woman Ascending a Stair
which Lewis modeled on Kate Lechmere,
is propped on the easel

from the Evening Standard, March 30, 1914



A sample ticket to a Vorticist Evening at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel

FlashPøint: a Journal of the Arts and Politics