Sussex Modernism

The Centre for Modernist Studies is currently hosting events around the theme of ‘Sussex Modernism’. For full details please visit the for the Sussex Modernism website.

There has recently been a free exhibition on Sussex Modernism at Two Temple Place, London, 28th January – 23rd April, 2017 (curated by Hope Wolf).

Other recent past events include a symposium on Craft Modernism, a conference on Sussex Modernism and Transformations in the Twentieth-Century Landscape, a talk by Iain SinclairBloomsbury in Sussex: a one-day conference to mark 100 years at Charlestonlectures at the Towner Gallery Eastbourne, and lectures at Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion.


Sussex is a county in which many of the leading writers, artists, composers, architects and patrons of British Modernism lived at key moments of their lives: Eric Gill and David Jones at Ditchling; Virginia and Leonard Woolf at Rodmell; Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant at Charleston; Roland Penrose and Lee Miller at Farley Farm; W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound at Stone Cross; Jacob Epstein near Hastings; Henry James at Lamb House; D. H. Lawrence at Greatham; Edward James at West Dean; Eric Ravilious at Eastbourne; and Peggy Guggenheim at South Harting. Ivy Compton-Burnett was brought up in Hove; E. M. Forster was at preparatory school in Eastbourne as were Cyril Connolly and George Orwell; Evelyn Waugh was educated at Lancing; Grahame Greene lived in Brighton; Patrick Hamilton was born in Hassocks and lived in Hove. Surrealist psychoanalyst and painter Grace Pailthorpe and artist Reuben Mednikoff lived in Hastings. The composers Edward Elgar, Hubert Parry, John Ireland and Frank Bridge lived in Sussex: Bridge at Friston where his one and only pupil was Benjamin Britten; from 1934 opera at Glyndebourne has brought the world’s leading musical directors, designers, conductors and singers to Sussex. Winifred Ellerman lived and was educated in Eastbourne before becoming a writer, feminist intellectual, partner of the poetess Hilda Doolittle and patroness of European modernist magazines, bookshops and avant-garde cinema; Sydney Schiff, writer and translator, had a house in Eastbourne where he entertained T. S. Eliot and Katherine Mansfield and promoted the work of Marcel Proust in the English-speaking world. Raymond Williams lived and worked as a WEA lecturer in Seaford and Hastings. Walter Hussey was a renowned patron of the arts in Chichester, commissioning Graham Sutherland to paint an altarpiece and Leonard Bernstein to compose the Chichester Psalms, as well as working with John Piper, Cecil Collins, William Walton and Marc Chagall. Rick Mather’s Towner Gallery in Eastbourne and Loftus and Grieve’s Jerwood Gallery in Hastings are the latest additions to modernist public architecture in Sussex. From Mendelsohn and Chermayeff’s De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill to Basil Spence’s University of Sussex at Falmer and Powell and Moya’s Chichester Festival Theatre, Sussex is also rich in modernist architecture.

Sussex Modernism now

Modernist experimentation continues to flourish at Sussex with the annual Sussex Poetry Festival, co-founded by Sara Crangle, and Hi Zero poetry readings, organised by Joe Luna.

In 2015 a series of public lectures on Sussex Modernism, hosted at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, were organised by Dr Alistair Davies.

Details of past events related to the theme of Sussex Modernism can be found here.

Researching Sussex Modernism

The Keep at Sussex University holds many important collections relating to Sussex Modernism, including the Monk’s House papers (holding Virginia Woolf’s papers), the Leonard Woolf Archive, the Hogarth Press Book Collection, the papers of Rudyard Kipling, the papers of Charles Madge and the Mass Observation Archive.


Please contact Dr Hope Wolf, for information about future events. Hope would also welcome PhD proposals from students who are interested in working on themes related to Sussex Modernism, or who wish to work on any of the above authors and artists.