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Title: A clear vision : how Bloomsbury helped to shape an Anglo-American formalist orthodoxy between 1910 and 1936
Author: Maddock, David
ISNI:       0000 0004 6348 8250
Awarding Body: University of Leicester
Current Institution: University of Leicester
Date of Award: 2017
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I argue that a contemplative strain of aesthetic theory, indebted to the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, informed a version of modernism propagated by Bloomsbury before the First World War. When Roger Fry’s Schopenhauerian construct, Post-Impressionism, was transmitted to America, it appealed to a new audience for modernist art. Recreating an Anglo-American dialogue from texts spanning the period between Fry’s Manet and the Post-Impressionists exhibition in 1910 and Alfred Barr Jr.’s Cubism and Abstract Art exhibition in 1936, I demonstrate how its key features bypassed a pre-existent modernist practice already established among New York’s bohemian set and were taken up instead by an urban intelligentsia who adapted them to the culturally-mainstream terms of American progressivism. Here, I suggest, they entered an Anglo-conformist narrative of modernist art. The ‘clear vision’ in question is that of the Schopenhauerian genius, a figure who sees through the clamour of wilful existence to a realm of universal and eternal ideas. His clarity in the midst of turmoil models a myth of art that transcends material interests. We discover this figure’s analogue in the spirit of Bloomsbury who, ever insistent upon candour and clarity of expression, conveyed the complexities of continental European avant-garde practice to an otherwise sceptical English audience; hence Bloomsbury’s prominence in the debate. The Anglo-American hypothesis I present accounts for a discontinuity between America’s institutionalised modernism and the European avant-garde heritage to which it lays claim. It is not incompatible with modernist accounts of Franco-American continuity, but it challenges them on the constitution of the orthodoxy. Appealing to the evidence of contemporary literature, I submit that an English contribution to institutional modernism has been neglected and propose that its rehabilitation would resolve an inconsistency in the Franco-American paradigm.
Supervisor: Richards, Simon ; Lindley, Phillip Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available