British Masters

We Are Making a New World

Series 1 - Episode 1 We Are Making a New World



Here’s the first of three programmes allowing James Fox to rewrite the history of 20th-century British art. And it’s a corker because he’s never knowingly understated in an engaging survey that rubbishes that bad and lionises the great. See if you agree with Fox. He doesn’t just have a knack for finding an arresting phrase, he uses language as an instrument for mugging, charming and occasionally bludgeoning us into submission. It all moves along briskly with plenty of style, music and sound effects which don’t get in the way of Fox tossing out his judgements.

No sooner has he consigned Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s top-shelf, soft-focus fantasies to the dustbin than he’s brandishing the pickled brain of fascist futurist Percy Wyndham Lewis and declaring, “bad men can be great artists”. But before you know it, he’s moved us up to the Second World War as far as Stanley Spencer. There’s some dispute over who’s TV’s top art brain; Fox is out of his corner, a heavyweight contender.


Art historian James Fox presents a celebration of 20th-century British painting, beginning with pieces by artists who worked before and during the First World War. He explores how painters Walter Sickert, Wyndham Lewis and David Bomberg fought against the traditions of 19th-century art, and analyses depictions of soldiers' lives - and deaths - by Christopher Nevinson, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer.