The name "vorticism" was given to the movement by Ezra Pound in 1913, although Wyndham Lewis, usually seen as the central figure in the movement, had been producing paintings in the same style for a year or so previously. That style was closely related to futurism, though is often said to be influenced by cubism as well, and vorticist works usually have a greater sense of depth than futurist paintings do. The vorticists critiqued both these movements.
Other than Lewis, the main figures associated with the movement were William Roberts, Edward Wadsworth, David Bomberg, and the sculptors Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.
The vorticists had only one exhibition, in 1915 at the Doré Gallery. Following that, the movement broke up, largely due to the onset of World War I. Attempts to revive the movement in the 1920s under the name Group X were unsuccessful.
The vorticists had their own journal, BLAST, edited by Lewis. It published work by Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot as well as by the vorticists themselves. Its typographical adventurousness was cited by El Lissitzky as one of the major forerunners of the revolution in graphic design in the 1920s and 1930s.
Although Lewis is generally seen as the central figure in the movement, it has been suggested that this was more due to his contacts and ability as a self-publicist and polemicist than the quality of his works necessarily. A 1956 exhibition at the Tate Gallery was called "Wyndham Lewis and the Vorticists", highlighting his prominent place in the movement, although this angered some other members of the group. Both Bomberg and Roberts protested strongly over Lewis' assertion in the exhibition catalogue that "Vorticism, in fact, was what I, personally, did, and said, at a certain period."