Art Term

Significant form

Term coined by art critic Clive Bell in 1914 to describe the idea that the form of an artwork or forms within an artwork can be expressive, even if largely or completely divorced from a recognizable reality

Clive Bell’s theory of significant form was explained in his book Art published in 1914. He begins the book with the lines: ’ What quality is shared by all objects that provoke our aesthetic emotions?’. The answer, according to Bell, is ‘significant form’ which he goes on to loosely describe as: ‘lines and colours combined in a particular way, certain forms and relations of forms, [that] stir our aesthetic emotions’.

Bell was a member of the Bloomsbury Group in London, and his ideas can be seen reflected in artworks created by the artists associated with the Group.

  • See definition for form