Britain isn’t always remembered for modernist art, but a new exhibition at London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery makes you wonder why. “Cutting Edge: Modernist British Printmaking” celebrates the bold, half-forgotten figures of the Grosvenor School of Modern Art. Founded after the First World War and closed at the onset of the Second, Grosvenor was briefly the country’s fiercest champion of linocut, the linoleum-based printmaking technique that first appeared in 1900s Germany but failed to catch on across the Channel. The same qualities that made linocut unpopular in other English schools—newness, cheapness, simplicity, versatility—allowed it to flourish at Grosvenor. Claude Flight, who taught most of the artists in this show, called it “an art of the people.”

Left: Lill Tschudi’s Gymnastic Exercises, 1931. Right: Leonard Beaumont’s Nymphs, Errant, 1934.

You sense this democratic spirit in the subject matter favored by Flight’s students, and in the students themselves. Grosvenor welcomed applicants who lacked formal training or worked erratic schedules. The exhibition’s strongest artist, Sybil Andrews, was a secretary for the school before she enrolled in Flight’s classes. Her prints, like those of her peers, explore the kinetic forms of 20th-century industry: she’s transfixed by shrieking trains and motorcycle phalanxes, and even her windmill looks like an R.A.F. propeller. Some of these images, with their bright colors and buoyant curves, were accused of kitsch-ifying modernity. But the legacy of the Great War was inescapable for Flight and his students, and today their work conveys something closer to hushed awe in the face of new technology. The Machine Age had arrived—the least Grosvenor could do was make it beautiful. —Jackson Arn