Rhythm and Reaction : The Jazz Age in Britain

The day before visiting the V&A for the Ocean Liners exhibition I made my way to Two Temple Place. Facing the River Thames and close to Temple Underground Station Two Temple Place has been on my To-Be-Visited list for some time. I first heard of it from Lynne (dovegreyreader).

The first exhibition held there in 2011/2012 was “William Morris : story, memory myth”. This year it’s the Jazz Age in Britain, which was roughly from the end of the First World War until the beginning of the Second.

Jazz provoked reactions ranging from devotion to abhorrence when the idea, and then the sound, of the music first entered the consciousness of the British public in the aftermath of the First World War. Visiting American groups such as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band and the Southern Syncopated Orchestra offered Britons their first chance to experience the music live.

Dancing (1929) by Marie Hartley. On loan from Harrogate Art Gallery I recognised the artist’s name immediately as I know her as a chronicler of Yorkshire Dales life through her many books on the subject and the museum she set up with Joan Ingilby in Hawes, North Yorkshire.

John Bulloch Souter’s The Breakdown (1962) caused such outrage in 1926 that it was taken off the walls of the Royal Academy on the orders of the Colonial Office

Rhythm & Reaction: The Age of Jazz in Britain will highlight how the new jazz sound in post-War nightclubs and dancehalls provided exciting and dynamic material for British artists. Bold depictions of lively dancers by William Roberts and Frank Dobson, will be displayed alongside the Harlem-inspired paintings for which Edward Burra, one of Britain’s foremost Modernist painters, was well-known.

Music (1890), by William Nicholson. In the late 19th century the banjo became popular among amateur musicians. Depicted here with a fiddle and annotated sheet music

The growing interest in jazz brought black and white musicians, artists and audiences together, and was crucial in influencing changes in British society, moving from stereotypes descended from the minstrel show to a more nuanced understanding of and interest in African American and black British culture.

Costume for the ballet Jazz, 1925

The exhibition brings together painting, prints, cartoons, textiles and ceramics, moving film, instruments and the all-important jazz sound, to explicitly examine the influence of jazz on British art, design and wider society.

Lambert and Butlers cigarette cards – Dance Band Leaders, 1920s and 30s


Kit Kat Dance Band Drum Kit


The exhibition is curated by Catherine Tackley, Professor and Head of Music at the University of Liverpool and one of the UK’s leading authorities on jazz.”

This may have been my first visit to Two Temple Place but it certainly won’t be my last. It’s worth visiting just for a view of the interior of the building, let alone for the beautifully and professionally curated art-related annual exhibitions.


2 comments on “Rhythm and Reaction : The Jazz Age in Britain

  1. sherry02738 says:

    It looks like a cheerful, fun exhibition!

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