Wyndham Lewis, in full Percy Wyndham Lewis (born November 18, 1882, on a yacht near Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada—died March 7, 1957, London, England), was an English artist and writer who founded the Vorticist movement, which sought to relate art and literature to the industrial process.
About 1893 Lewis moved to London with his mother after his parents separated. At age 16 he won a scholarship to London’s Slade School of Fine Art, but he left three years later without completing his course. Instead, he went to Paris, where he practised painting and attended lectures at the Sorbonne. While in Paris, Lewis became interested in Cubist and Expressionist art; he was one of the first British artists to do so.
On his return to London in 1908, Lewis began to write satirical stories, and he developed a style of painting that drew upon aspects of Cubism and Expressionism. By 1913 he was creating paintings that contained abstract geometric forms and references to machines and urban architecture. This style was named Vorticism, due to Lewis’s belief that artists should observe the energy of modern society as if from a still point at the centre of a whirling vortex.
In World War I Lewis served at the front as an artillery officer and then, commissioned as a war artist, he produced some memorable paintings and drawings of battle scenes. An example is A Battery Shelled (1919), which is representational yet retains a Vorticist angularity.
After the war Lewis became better known for his writing than for his visual art, although he continued to paint portraits and abstract watercolours. He worked in seclusion until 1926, when he began to publish a remarkable series of books: The Art of Being Ruled (political theory); Time and Western Man (an attack on subjectivity and the cult of flux in modern art); The Lion and the Fox (a study of Shakespeare and Machiavelli); and The Wild Body (short stories and essays on satire). In 1930 Lewis caused a furore in literary London with a satirical novel, The Apes of God, in which he scourged wealthy dilettantes.