By: Joshua Glenn
May 23, 2024

Jacob Epstein’sThe Rock Drill (1913–1914, cast 1962)

A series of notes regarding proto sf-adjacent artwork created during the sf genre’s emergent Radium Age (1900–1935). Very much a work-in-progress. Curation and categorization by Josh Glenn, whose notes are rough-and-ready — and in some cases, no doubt, improperly attributed. Also see these series: RADIUM AGE TIMELINE and RADIUM AGE POETRY.

RADIUM AGE ART: 1900 | 1901 | 1902 | 1903 | 1904 | 1905 | 1906 | 1907 | 1908 | 1909 | 1910 | 1911 | 1912 | 1913 | 1914 | 1915 | 1916 | 1917 | 1918 | 1919 | 1920 | 1921 | 1922 | 1923 | 1924 | 1925 | 1926 | 1927 | 1928 | 1929 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934 | 1935.


The year 1914, in my periodization scheme, marks the beginning of the cultural decade known as the “Nineteen-Teens.” Of course there are no hard stops and starts in culture, so it’s more accurate to describe 1914 (and 1913) as cusp years during which the Aughts end and the Teens begin.

Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

WWI: Franz Ferdinand assassinated, triggering a train of military presumptions and defensive alliances — in semiautomatic way that seemed to exclude considerations of prudence, moral purpose, or even national interest. For many intellectuals, WWI would produce a collapse of confidence in the rhetoric of the culture of rationality that had prevailed in Europe since the Enlightenment.

The Vorticists were a British avant-garde group formed in London in 1914 with the aim of creating art that expressed the dynamism of the modern world. Wyndham Lewis was its leader; other artists involved with the group included: Lawrence Atkinson, Jessica Dismorr, Cuthbert Hamilton, William Roberts, Helen Saunders, Edward Wadsworth, and the sculptors Sir Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. More info below.

The first issue of BLAST: The Review of the Great English Vortex, published in July 1914.

Clive Bell’s theory of significant form was explained in his book Art published in 1914. He begins the book with the lines: “What quality is shared by all objects that provoke our aesthetic emotions?” The answer, according to Bell, is “significant form,” which he goes on to loosely describe as: “lines and colours combined in a particular way, certain forms and relations of forms, [that] stir our aesthetic emotions.”

Arthur Jerome Eddy, writing about abstract art in 1914, describes the goal as a “pure art” which “speaks from soul to soul, it is not dependent upon one’s use of objective and imitative forms.” Art as telepathic communication, a means of creatine sympathetic vibrations in the viewer.

Alfred Stieglitz’s “Francis Picabia” (1915)

Francis Picabia continues to act as an ambassador of modernist art in the USA. Shown above: A 1915 photo, by Alfred Stieglitz, of Picabia in front of his painting “This Has to Do with Me.”

J.H. Jeans’ “Radiation and the Quantum Theory.”

Robert Goddard makes his first experiments with rocketry, in 1914; in 1926, he would be the first to launch a liquid-fueled rocket.

Manning’s Geometry of Four Dimensions.

Charlie Chaplin arrives in Los Angeles and begins working for Keystone.

Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons — multiple prose-poems covering the everyday mundane — published. Its first poem, “A Carafe, That Is a Blind Glass,” is arguably its most famous, and is often cited as one of the quintessential works of “Cubist literature.” Stein, whose portrait was being painted by Picasso while she was writing the book, here reveals herself as a Cubist artist in her determination to reconfigure a one-sided perspective while revealing a subject’s essence through multiple perspectives.



Speaking of catastrophe, H.G. Wells’s The World Set Free (reissued by the MIT Press’s RADIUM AGE series) appears in 1914.

Olga Rozanova’s “City on Fire” (1914)


Giacomo Balla’s “Planet Mercury passing in front of the Sun” (1914)


Jacob Epstein’sThe Rock Drill (1913–1914, cast 1962)


Helen Saunders’s Vorticist composition with bending figure, c. 1914.


Francis Picabia’s I See Again in Memory My Dear Udnie (1914)

From MoMa’s website:

In this large painting, rhythm is intimated via a series of repeated, interpenetrating pistons and orifices, fusing the mechanical with the biological. The work illustrates Picabia’s predilection for machines, which intensified during his 1913 visit to New York. As one reviewer noted that year, “Picabia… admits to having put all former things behind him and to having grasped the genius of American machinery as the new medium through which his art may be expressed.” The painting’s conflation of mechanized movements with erotic bodily forms, along with its half-stolen title, exemplifies the irreverent approach that made Picabia a central figure in the Dada movement during the World War I years.


Francis Picabia’s “Comic Wedlock” (1914)

Francis Picabia’s “This Has to Do with Me” (1914)

Picabia’s biomorphic paintings were shown in 1915 at Stieglitz’s gallery in NY.


Giorgio de Chirico’s “The Philosopher’s Conquest” (1914)


Giorgio de Chirico’s “The Song of Love” (1914)


Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s “Zang Tumb Tumb” (1914)


Marcel Duchamp’s “Network of Stoppages” (1914)

From MoMA’s website:

In 3 Standard Stoppages, Duchamp had explored the possibility of adjusting the metric standard through a random procedure. In this large canvas he complicated that idea, multiplying the curves of the fallen threads from 3 Standard Stoppages by reproducing each one three times and positioning them in a diagrammatic arrangement. He also made the work by painting over the images on a canvas he had already used, those images being a female figure and a schematic, quasi-mechanical drawing of his ongoing project The Large Glass. The visible and semi-visible layers of Network of Stoppages seem to contrast three representational systems: traditional figuration, chance operations, and the diagram, which maps the world without picturing it.


Juan Gris’s “Guitar and Glasses” (1914)

The Met’s website: “The tabletop tips up vertically, all but negating spatial recession, and the glinting bottle and wineglasses seem to push through the picture plane in classic trompe l’oeil style.”


Jean Metzinger’s “Landscape” (1912-14?)


Fernand Léger’s “Exit the Ballets Russes” (1914)

Fernand Léger’s “Le Fumeur” (1914)

Léger created a personal form of cubism (known as “tubism”) which he gradually modified into a more figurative, populist style. His boldly simplified treatment of modern subject matter has caused him to be regarded as a forerunner of pop art.

He’d co-founded the Section d’Or in 1911, and his paintings, from then until 1914, became increasingly abstract. But Léger’s experiences in World War I would have a significant effect on his work….


Lyonel Feininger’s Benz VI” (1914)


Diego Rivera’s “The Alarm Clock” (1914)


Jessica Dismorr’s “Landscape” (1914)


Félix Del Marle’s “The Port” (1914)


Lyubov Popova’s “Cubist Landscape City” (1914)


Marsden Hartley’s “Portrait of a German Officer” (1914)

The outbreak of war in August of 1914 and the subsequent loss on the Western Front of his close friend and probable lover, Lieutenant Karl von Freyburg, threw Hartley into deep grief. The artist discarded an existing project and began pouring his feelings onto 12 canvases. Known as the “War Motif” series, this body of work would become his passionate memorial to von Freyburg and, by extension, to the generation of men who surrendered their lives in the trenches.

See this website.


Gino Severini’s “Visual Synthesis of the Idea: “War”” (1914)

A semiotic painting.


Workshop c. 1914-15 Wyndham Lewis


Antonio Sant’Elia’s “The Power Plant” (1914)


Félix Del Marle’s “Railroad” (1914)


Robert Delaunay’s “Homage to Blériot” (1914)

Belongs to the series Disks — inspired by the colour theory of French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, and the concept of the simultaneous contrasts of colour.

This canvas celebrates the French aviation pioneer and constructor Louis Blériot, in a typical simultaneist composition, by representing symbols of progress, namely a biplane, seen flying above the Eiffel Tower, in Paris, at the right, and a propeller, at the left. However, the inscription left below the canvas reads “first simultaneous solar disks form” to the great constructor Blériot, suggesting that the painting is dedicated to Blériot, as the constructor and not as the pilot of the biplane.

Delaunay described the work the following way: “Blériot–1914 A simultaneous solar disc. Creation of a constructive disc. Solar fireworks. Depth and life of the sun. Constructive mobility of the solar spectrum; dawn, fire, evolution of airplanes. Everything is roundness, sun, earth, horizons, intense plenitude of life, a poetry which one cannot render into language… The driving force in the picture. Solar strength and strength of the earth.”


Odilon Redon’s “The Cyclops” (1914)


Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s “Hieratic Head of Ezra Pound” (1914)


Carlos Carra’s “Portrait of Marinetti” (1911, reworked 1914)


Diego Rivera’s “Portrait de Messieurs Kawashima et Foujita” (1914)

Diego Rivera’s “Young Man with a Fountain Pen” (1914)


Kazimir Malevich’s “An Englishman in Moscow” (1914)

In 1914 Malevich turned to a new style of painting but with the same purpose (as his “zaum realism”) in mind. His Alogist pictures, such as An Englishman in Moscow (1913–1914) project a dense collection of whole and partial images, words, collage elements, objects fastened to the canvas, and puzzling titles. They replace the structural “higher geometries” of Cubism with the secret logic of content devised by the artist.

Malevich may have solved the problem of giving a visual image to “zaum” through reading descriptions by Hinton and Ouspensky of the geometric cross-sections produced by a cube falling through a plane.

The painting features a collage of geometric shapes and items such as a lit candle, scimitar, a ladder, a wooden spoon and other items. Malevich also painted symbols and text characters onto the canvas—segments of the words “partial” and “solar eclipse” are seen in Russian. The picture suggests the elements of a complex riddle without a solution.

This painting is resonant of the “alogical” style that Malevich adopted as a direct response to the zaum language introduced and explored by Alexei Kruchenykh and others in the early 1910s. Alogism centered on a complete reversal of the logic upon which one typically relies when reading a painting. The artist intentionally ruptures the viewer’s attempt to reconcile objects.

Reviewing the 2014 Malevich exhibit at the Tate Modern, The Evening Standard said the painting is, “anti-rational forerunner of surrealism, colliding cubist fragments with apparently random objects.”


Sonia Delaunay’s “Prismes électriques” (1914)

Delaunay-Turk was born in the Ukraine, and married Robert Delaunay in 1910. She is noted for her use of “simultaneous contrasts” and for her design for stage costumes.


David Bomberg’s In the Hold c. 1913-14

London-based painter David Bomberg’s combustive canvas is a carefully managed bomb blast of crosscutting grids and jagged edges. (He was associated with the Vorticists but wasn’t willing to be a member of the movement, I believe…)


Piet Mondrian’s “Composition No. 6” (1914)

Mondrian’s work becoming more Cubist — but it deviates from orthodox Cubism in its theosophy-driven thinking about line and color. Radically reducing lines to horizontal and vertical, radically reducing color to the three primary colors… Mondrian was essentially painting semiotic charts of a unity that would resolve harmoniously all antitheses.


Piet Mondrian’s “Composition in Oval with Color Planes 1” (1914)

The geometry of this composition, made two years after Mondrian moved from Holland to Paris, is directly based on sketches of partially demolished buildings, with exposed floors, chimneys, and patches of wallpaper.


Luigi Russolo’s “Enharmonic Notation for Intonarumori” (1914)


Vanessa Bell’s “Abstract Painting ” (c. 1914)

One of only four fully non-representational paintings within Bell’s oeuvre. From the Tate’s website: “They show the artist experimenting with abstraction and investigating through her practice theories of significant form propounded by her husband, the art critic Clive Bell, and her close friend and former partner, the painter and critic Roger Fry.”


David Bomberg’s “The Mud Bath” (1914)

Depicting steam baths used by the Jewish population near his home in east London, Bomberg reduces human figures to geometric shapes, a process he described as “searching for an intenser expression … where I use Naturalistic Form I have stripped it of all irrelevant matter.”


Giacomo Balla’s Abstract Speed + Sound (Velocità astratta + rumore) (c. 1913–1914)

In late 1912 to early 1913 Giacomo Balla turned from a depiction of the splintering of light to the exploration of movement and, more specifically, the speed of racing automobiles. This led to an important series of studies in 1913–14.

Giacomo Balla’s Vortice, spazio, forme (1914)


Edward Wadsworth’s “Vorticist Study” (1914)


Aimé Félix Del Marle’s “Looping” (1914)


Gino Severini’s “Spherical Expansion of Light (Centripetal and Centrifugal)” (1914)


Carlo Carra’s “Interventionist Demonstration (Patriotic Holiday-Freeword Painting)” (1914)


Joseph Stella’s “Battle of Lights, Coney Island, Mardi Gras” (1913–1914)

The Italian-born Joseph Stella wrote that Coney Island presented the “most intense arabesque… [of the] surging crowd and the revolving machines generating… violent, dangerous pleasures.” This cacophony of electric lights, gyrating dancers, and radiating steel beams of the Ferris wheel and roller coasters was his first American subject.


Wenzel Hablik’s “Interior of a Display Temple” (1914)


Natalia Goncharova’s “Set design for ‘Le Coq d’Or” (1914)


Antonio Sant’Elia’s “Air and Train Station with Funiculars” (1914)

Antonio Sant’Elia’s “The New City — House Stairs with External Lifts” (1914)

Antonio Sant’Elia, “Housing with external lifts and connection systems to different street levels” from La Città Nuova, 1914

Antonio Sant’Elia (1888–1916) was an Italian architect notable for his visionary drawings of the city of the future. Between 1912 and 1914 he made many highly imaginative drawings and plans for cities of the future. A group of these drawings called Città Nuova (“New City”) was displayed in May 1914 at an exhibition of the Nuove Tendenze group, of which he was a member.

His designs have influenced technocrats and urban planners throughout the 20th century — the most famous being Le Corbusier, whose unrealized Ville Radieuse (“Radiant City”), like Sant’Elia’s Città Nuova, was characterized by central planning, ease of transport, and the overall organization of its inhabitants.



Around 1914, Ezra Pound began criticizing his fellow Imagistes for their sloppiness with regard to le mot juste; he felt that unrhymed, irregular verse in and of itself wasn’t enough. So he joined forces with Wyndham Lewis, whose Vorticism was stricter and more intense — experimenting with forms and geometric abstractions in an attempt to transfer energies between literature and the visual arts. Pound’s essay “Vorticism” in the Fortnightly Review of September 1914 became the movement’s aesthetic manifesto. In the visual arts, the movement was about sharply defined form with distinct and geometrical lines and shapes as the expression of energy or emotion.

See Ezra Pound and Neoplatonism (2004) by P. Th. M. G. Liebregts.

Vorticist painting combined cubist fragmentation of reality with hard-edged imagery derived from the machine and the urban environment. It was a British equivalent to Italy’s Futurism, although with doctrinal differences; Lewis was hostile to the Futurists.


MORE RADIUM AGE SCI FI ON HILOBROW: RADIUM AGE SERIES from THE MIT PRESS: In-depth info on each book in the series; a sneak peek at what’s coming in the months ahead; the secret identity of the series’ advisory panel; and more. | RADIUM AGE: TIMELINE: Notes on proto-sf publications and related events from 1900–1935. | RADIUM AGE POETRY: Proto-sf and science-related poetry from 1900–1935. | RADIUM AGE 100: A list (now somewhat outdated) of Josh’s 100 favorite proto-sf novels from the genre’s emergent Radium Age | SISTERS OF THE RADIUM AGE: A resource compiled by Lisa Yaszek.


Radium Age SF, Sci-Fi