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Room: 1930s

This video brought to you by Tate.org.uk

Curator Chris Stephens explores the 1930s.

Learn more about the art featured in this video:
- Leon Underwood, Totem to the Artist, 1925–30
- Christopher Wood, Zebra and Parachute, 1930
- Julian Trevelyan, The Potteries, 1938.
Created by Tate.

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Video transcript

the 1930s saw debate not only between the avant-garde and the Academy but also between modern artists about the appropriate response to the rise of fascism in Europe abstract artists are realists and social realists all interpreted that political imperative in different ways one of the things the refurbishment of these galleries has allowed is the introduction of wooden sculpture which until now we have been able to show at Tate Britain and it's revealed in the late 20s and 30s the dominance of the Supreme ative icing styles among sculptors this is Leon Underwood's totem to the artist and it shows a series of tumbling figures like us a pile of acrobats if you like you can see under words wonderful use of the wood here the way he allows the light of SAP wood to highlight certain features but in particular his use of the grain look at this wonderful concentric rings that exaggerate the form of this figures torso it is very much a totem pole three stacked figures carved out of a log of wood and you can see how under wood is has left part of that log uncarved so you can see the original material from which this work was made these two paintings together share a certain naive style and but also show some of the extremes of the art of the 30s at the top Christopher woods zebra with parachute a very strange a vocation of Paris from 1913 made shortly before wood took his own life throwing himself under a train the lower work is Julian trillions the Potteries a painting that comes out of a larger project of artists and intellectuals who travel to and investigated the industrial cities of northern England a sort of anthropological project do almost uncover these sort of hidden communities and one very politically charged during a sort of deep economic depression I find this room very moving because whether abstract or realist it's full of works made in the belief of art's ability to change the world but of course the 1930s is a decade that ends at the beginning of the Second World War and the unleashing of the horrors of that conflict and of the Holocaust that fundamentally undermined that optimistic belief in the power of culture