Report by Bekah Blanchard
First published in London in the summer of 1911, Rhythm magazine was edited by Katherine Mansfield, John Middleton Murry, Michael Sadler, and J. D. Fergusson. Known particularly as a prominent art magazine, it helped usher in Vorticism, a modern art form recognized by its roots in Cubism. The purpose of the magazine, as stated in the first issue, was to provide an outlet for “…a new art… an art that strikes deeper, that touches a profounder reality, that passes outside the bounds of a narrow aestheticism… to a humaner and a broader field.” These ideals were successfully made manifest in the magazine, and though it was short lived (published for only two years), it showed keen attention to their stated purpose and published work that analyzed the human condition and the state of reality. The art published in Rhythm featured bold but clean lines, mimicking the modern art form of Cubism that was dominant at the time. As the magazine progressed, the art selected became more similar to Vorticism, which helped the short-lived movement gain popularity. Behind the push for new art and literature, however, is one of the most influential factors that identified Rhythm as the modern magazine that it was: the partnership of editors John Middleton Murry and Katherine Mansfield.
Born in August of 1889, John Middleton Murry was one of the most prolific writers of the early 20th century. In addition to writing over 60 books, Murry also critiqued work and wrote thousands of essays reviewing art, literature, religion, politics, and more. Educated at Christ’s Hospital and further at Brasenose College, Murry quickly jumped into the literary magazine world after completing his education. In 1911, when Murry was just 22 years old, he began Rhythm magazine with Michael Sadler and John Duncan Fergusson. It was also during this time that he met his future wife and collaborator, Katherine Mansfield. Mansfield, born in New Zealand in 1888, was educated at Queen’s College, where she regularly contributed to the school’s newspaper and eventually became its editor. Following her graduation, Mansfield began to write more and finally submitted a piece to Rhythm, after which she met Murry. The two struck up a relationship as she continued supplying pieces for the journal, and she soon became an editor for the magazine. This partnership defined the second volume of the magazine and contributed greatly to the lasting effect of Rhythm. The two, along with editors Sadler and Fergusson, maintained the focus of Rhythm until its end in early 1913. Katherine Mansfield’s work helped found the magazine’s overall aesthetic. Along with Mansfield, Rhythm’s publication of notable writers like D.H. Lawrence and Hugh Walpole helped catapult Vorticism into the spotlight of the modern art world.
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