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An extraordinary example of British avant-garde clothing, this piece, made on the eve of the First World War, will be coming up for sale at Mallams, Oxford, next month. The embroidered and block-printed silk robe is among the small group of daring textiles designed c.1912-14 by the artist Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957). Mallams’ specialist Philip Smith describes it as ''a museum piece'' and expects it to bring over £2 500 in Mallams' auction on 7th-8th December.

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The full-length gown, consigned from the north of England, combines bold colours with bands of stylised foxes, swans, fish and kneeling figures. It was made during a period of extraordinary creativity for Lewis - the years when he developed the style of geometric abstraction, a blend of Cubism and Italian Futurism, which his friend Ezra Pound dubbed Vorticism.

It is possible this robe was among the influential textiles produced by the Bloomsbury Group's Omega Workshops. However, a similar robe and a printed panel of this design have been attributed to the Rebel Art Centre - the short-lived workshop set up in 1914 after Lewis and several Omega artists had quarrelled with the Bloomsbury set.

The Bloomsbury set, or Bloomsbury Group, were a group of avant-grade English creative thinkers which included Virginia and her husband Leonard Woolf, Virginia's sister Vanessa Bell and writer E. M. Forster amongst others. The group shared a pursuit and philosophy of aesthetics experience and knowledge.

The Vorticist movement broke up the following year, largely as a result of the war. Lewis himself was posted to the western front, serving as a second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. He became an official war artist after the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917.

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A second, and more unsettling, tale of bohemian life in Edwardian Britain is told by a small 30 x 21cm head and shoulders portrait of a young women with auburn hair. The piece is also dated from c.1914.

The piece is the work of Scottish painter William Strang (1859-1921) whose well-known portrait of the Bloomsbury writer and gardener, Vita Sackville-West, hangs in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

The sitter is believed to be Eileen 'Dolly' Henry, a professional model who became embroiled in an affair with the Staffordshire artist John Currie. The long and tempestuous relationship came to a shocking end on 8th October, 1914 when Currie shot her dead in a Chelsea apartment. He then turned the gun on himself, and died in hospital the following day.

It is known that Henry had been sitting for a portrait by Strang in the period of her death. The work, which has been in a private collection since 1981, is estimated at £3 000-5 000.

Mallams' Design, Modern British & Post-war Art auction will be held on 7th and 8th December. Check out more here.

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