The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

‘A Definite Meaning’: The Art Criticism of T.E. Hulme

Rebecca Beasley

Struggling to write about contemporary art, the critic T.E. Hulme (1883–1917) found himself compelled ‘to invent original ways of stating things’. In this essay, which was first published in 2006, Rebecca Beasley traces the development of an influential writer whose brief career spanned the period of Camden Town painting and saw the emergence of modernist art in Britain.
The great difficulty in any talk about art lies in the extreme indefiniteness of the vocabulary you are obliged to employ. The concepts by which you endeavour to describe your attitude toward any work of art are so extraordinarily fluid. Words like creative, expressive, vital, rhythm, unity and personality are so vague that you can never be sure when you use them that you are conveying over at all the meaning you intended to. This is constantly realised unconsciously; in almost every decade a new catch word is invented which for a few years after its invention does convey, to a small set of people at any rate, a definite meaning, but even that very soon lapses into a fluid condition when it means anything and nothing.1
T.E. Hulme’s art criticism has long been accorded a key role in literary histories of modernism. Like Roger Fry and Clive Bell, whose art criticism he simultaneously draws upon and explicitly rejects, Hulme is credited with introducing readings of visual art whose influence extended beyond the boundaries of art history into literary criticism. Joseph Frank’s 1945 article, ‘Spatial Form in Literature’, is only the most famous example of a literary analysis that categorised modernist literature according to the formulations of Hulme’s art criticism and his most well-known source, Wilhelm Worringer’s 1908 doctoral dissertation, Abstraktion und Einfühlung (Abstraction and Empathy). But we might see all criticism that harnesses the distinctive forms of vorticist painting and sculpture to its definitions of literary modernism as deeply indebted to Hulme’s contemporary advocacy, not least in the exclusionary tactics required to mark off the ‘radical modernism’ of Hulme, Lewis and Pound from related early twentieth-century projects. This has been facilitated, to a certain extent, by placing an emphasis on Worringer’s contribution to Hulme’s art criticism that has effectively eclipsed the significance of its British critical context. This essay, therefore, traces the emergence of Hulme’s art criticism out of a dialogue with the impressionist and realist Camden Town Group and the post-impressionist Bloomsbury groupings, in order to review the ‘definite meaning[s]’ Hulme’s terms conveyed to this ‘small set of people’.2 Hulme’s art criticism was far more closely engaged with the full variety of modernist art production than his own rhetoric, and that of later critics, suggests.
Hulme published only eight items of art criticism during his lifetime, and three of those were restricted to brief notes introducing a reproduced image. All eight appeared in A.R. Orage’s socialist periodical, the New Age, over a six-month period, between 25 December 1913 and 9 July 1914. In addition to the material Hulme published himself, an earlier series of notes on ‘Bergson’s Theory of Art’ (c.1911–12) was edited by Herbert Read and published posthumously as ‘The Notebooks of T.E. Hulme’ in the New Age in 1922 and in Speculations two years later. Hulme’s most extensive discussion of his theory of art, the lecture ‘The New Art and Its Philosophy’, was delivered to the Quest Society on 22 January 1914, but not published until it appeared in Speculations as ‘Modern Art and Its Philosophy’. A piece titled ‘The Plan for a Book on Modern Theories of Art’, probably composed at some point between 1911 and early 1913, was published as an appendix in Speculations. Hulme was writing a book about Jacob Epstein at the time of his death in 1917; the manuscript has never been found, but Hulme’s most recent biographer has published new information about it, discovered in a number of letters and in its projected publisher’s archives.3

67 Frith Street: An education in contemporary art

The biographical context for Hulme’s art criticism is well established. There are numerous contemporary accounts of Hulme’s famous Tuesday night salon, held at 67 Frith Street between 1911 and 1914: as Alun Jones commented, ‘no biography or autobiography of the period seems to be complete unless the writer’s impression of Hulme and his Frith Street gathering is included’.4 ‘Hulme had the most wonderful gift of knowing every one and mixing every one’, remembered Christopher Nevinson, ‘there were journalists, writers, poets, painters, politicians of all sorts, from Conservatives to New Age Socialists, Fabians, Irish yaps, American bums, and Labour leaders.’ ‘The refreshment ... was chiefly beer’,5 and the primary mode of discourse was argument: ‘there was nothing, actually, about which we were united’, recalled Hulme’s friend, the playwright and drama critic Ashley Dukes, and Hulme’s own argumentative style appears to have made a particular impression on his guests: ‘he would sit for hours unwinding, as it were, general ideas, with expansive gestures which began and ended in the region of his chest’,6 wrote Dukes, and Richard Curle recalled similarly that ‘to hear Hulme develop general ideas and abstractions was like studying an elaborate pattern whose inner lines and texture emerge gradually as you gaze. Nothing seemed beyond his range.’7
While the diversity of participants in Hulme’s salon is welcome testimony to the range of influences on early modernist thinking, several of the guests noted a particular focus on contemporary art. W.H. Davies described the evenings as ‘mostly for artists, and not so much for literary people’;8 John Gould Fletcher recalled that Hulme ‘was far more interested in modern art and philosophy than poetry’;9 Ashley Dukes remembered contemporary art as the midwife of imagism, writing that ‘our general interest in “abstract” art led us especially to a revaluation of the images of poetry’.10 Even so, the list of artists attending Hulme’s salon has struck subsequent commentators as surprisingly varied. It not only included the artists later affiliated to or associated with the vorticist group, who would form the focus of Hulme’s criticism, Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Wyndham Lewis and Christopher Nevinson; the more numerous group were the ‘Neo-Realist’ artists of the Camden Town Group, Robert Bevan, Harold Gilman, Charles Ginner, Spencer Gore and, at least once, Walter Sickert.11 Hulme attended Sickert’s and Bevan’s ‘at homes’ in return.12
In 1911, however, these artists would have appeared a far more cohesive group; they were all, for example, high-profile exhibitors at the Allied Artists’ Association exhibitions, the non-juried exhibitions initiated by the Sunday Times art critic Frank Rutter in imitation of the Salon des Indépendants. Nevinson later commented that ‘[John] Lavery, Sickert, Spencer Gore, Ginner, Gilman, [Lucien] Pissarro and Wyndham Lewis were the backbone of the exhibition’.13 They were all associated, to varying degrees, with the promotion of French post-impressionism, and their work was identified with recent French, rather than English, stylistic innovation. But they were more formally allied too: Lewis was a member of the Camden Town Group, in fact one of only two artists outside Sickert’s Fitzroy Street circle invited to become one of the sixteen founding members.14 When the Camden Town Group became the much broader-based London Group towards the end of 1913, new members included Epstein, Frederick Etchells, Cuthbert Hamilton, Nevinson and Edward Wadsworth; David Bomberg and Gaudier-Brzeska were elected to membership in the group’s first months.15 Hulme actively contributed to this group’s formation. Nevinson describes the London Group as ‘originat[ing]’ in Hulme’s salon, and remarks that ‘Gilman was the motive force. Slowly but surely with the help of Hulme he gathered all the warring elements of Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, Neo-Primitives, Vorticists, Cubists, and Futurists.’16
This is not to deny that even in 1911 observers were able to perceive considerable diversity across the work of these artists. Although impressionism and neo-impressionism loomed large in the Camden Town Group’s heritage through its Fitzroy Street origins and the tutelage of its most senior members, Walter Sickert and Lucien Pissarro, by the time of its first exhibition in June 1911 more recent influences were ensuring increasing stylistic variety. As Ginner later recalled, Gilman, for example, ‘was still influenced by Sickert but a somewhat higher key of colour was creeping in and he was already beginning to expound his contempt for “mud”, as he termed it, in painting’.17 Lewis was working in a somewhat different idiom, ‘touching the fringe of cubism, anathema to certain of the members’.18 The Times began its review of their second exhibition, in December 1911, by remarking, ‘The Camden Town Group is not a school, but only a convenient name for a number of artists who exhibit together’.19
Nevertheless, the fact that they exhibited together, and the terms by which they exhibited together, indicated significant ideological sympathies. The group was founded, according to Ginner, ‘to hold within a fixed and limited circle those painters whom they considered to be the best and most promising of the day’.20 Their interpretation of the ‘best and most promising’ was formulated in opposition to the conservative Royal Academy, and also the New English Art Club, once the progressive champion of impressionism, but increasingly perceived, wrote a Times reviewer, as ‘one of the strongest conservative forces in the artistic life of the country’.21 The New English Art Club’s hostility to post-impressionism in general, and to Roger Fry’s 1910 exhibition, Manet and the Post-Impressionists in particular, had formed the immediate impetus for the group’s foundation in spring 1911 as an alternative exhibiting society. Yet at the same time, the group’s ‘fixed and limited’ membership also distinguished it from the inclusive and democratic Allied Artists’ Association, with which anyone could exhibit, and which was organised by committees of exhibitors chosen alphabetically. While the Camden Town Group painters continued to exhibit at the AAA exhibitions, they also agreed on the necessity of exhibiting as a small and selective group, one of the implications of which was the exclusion of women because ‘some members might desire, perhaps even under pressure, to bring in their wives or lady friends and this might make things rather uncomfortable between certain members of the elect, for these wives or lady friends might not come up to the standard aimed at by the group’.22
In placing themselves between the conservative establishment and the inclusiveness of the AAA, and in their championing of recent French art, the Camden Town Group occupied an ideological space proximate to the nascent groupings of Bloomsbury artists led by Fry, and indeed, the groups fostered significant collaboration. When Malcolm Lightfoot resigned from the Camden Town Group and subsequently committed suicide in September 1911, he was replaced by Duncan Grant.23 In December 1911, a number of the Bloomsbury and Camden Town artists exhibited together in the first exhibition of the Contemporary Art Society at Manchester City Art Gallery. The same month, Fry invited Lewis to join him and Vanessa Bell, Frederick Etchells, Jessie Etchells and Grant in what would become the Grafton Group. In May the following year Ginner and Gore exhibited with this group and Charles Holmes and Helen Saunders in Fry’s exhibition of Quelques artistes indépendants Anglais in Paris,24 and in October 1912, Clive Bell selected Camden Town members Gore, Henry Lamb and Lewis, as well as Bernard Adeney, Frederick Etchells, Jessie Etchells, Cuthbert Hamilton, Eric Gill, Stanley Spencer and Edward Wadsworth as ‘The English Group’ at the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition.25 By autumn of 1913, it is no wonder that Sickert was considering a formal merger of the Camden Town and Grafton groups: ‘it would make the only interesting crowd in London’.26

Terms of debate

The ideological unity of these various artists was further suggested by the critical terminology they developed to describe their work. Initially, they drew on Paterian formulations to distinguish post-impressionism from naturalism and impressionism: in his introduction to the catalogue for Manet and the Post-Impressionists, Desmond MacCarthy had the post-impressionists address the impressionists by saying, ‘“You have explored nature in every direction, and all honour to you; but your methods and principles have hindered artists from exploring and expressing that emotional significance which lies in things, and is the most important subject matter of art”’.27 Such an expressivist stance could assert theoretical conformity, while insisting on the importance of individual vision: thus MacCarthy was able to describe the post-impressionist method as enabling ‘the individuality of the artist to find completer self-expression in his work than is possible to those who have committed themselves to representing objects more literally’.28 As late as December 1913, J.B. Manson, writing one of the two catalogue prefaces to the Exhibition by the Camden Town Group and Others at the Public Art Galleries in Brighton, deployed the same strategy to explain the formation of the London Group as the extension ‘of the means of free expression’ from the Camden Town Group ‘to other artists who were experimenting with new methods, who were seeking or who had found means of expressing their ideas, their visions, their conceptions in their own way ... More eclectic in its constitution, it will no longer limit itself to the cultivation of one single school of thought, but will offer hospitality to all manner of artistic expression provided it has the quality of sincere personal conviction.’29
By the time Manson wrote this preface, however, his terms were already showing their age. The previous year, Clive Bell had introduced his definition of art as ‘significant form’ in his introduction to ‘The English Group’ at the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition, and Fry had deployed his more tentative version, ‘expressive form’. For both, the move towards a more formalist rhetoric hardened up the distinctions between post-impressionism, and romanticism and realism: Fry wrote that ‘the distinguishing characteristic of the French artists’ exhibited was ‘the markedly Classic spirit of their work’, by which he meant ‘that they do not rely for their effect upon associated ideas, as I believe Romantic and Realistic artists invariably do’.30 He had made the same observation about Sickert and the Camden Town Group two years before: Sickert, he wrote, ‘has steadily refused to acknowledge the effect upon the mind of the associated ideas of objects; has considered solely their pictorial value as opposed to their ordinary emotional qualities’, and ‘The Camden Town group ... are all characterised by their concentration on this purely pictorial and non-romantic attitude’.31 Bell’s prime example of significant form was Wyndham Lewis’s work: ‘Hardly at all does it depend for its effect on association or suggestion. There is no reason why a mind sensitive to form and colour, although it inhabit another solar system, and a body altogether unlike our own, should fail to appreciate it.’32 Lewis himself echoed Fry’s and Bell’s definitions in the preface that followed Manson’s, his introduction to ‘Room III. (The Cubist Room)’ at the Exhibition by the Camden Town Group and Others, albeit in somewhat more polemical terms: ‘All revolutionary painting to-day has in common the rigid reflections of steel and stone in the spirit of the artist, that desire for stability as though a machine were being built to fly or kill with; an alienation from the traditional photographer’s trade and realisation of the value of colour and form as such independently of what recognisable form it covers or encloses.’33
When Hulme composed his first piece of art criticism in December 1913, then, the critical framework around modern art was well established. The expressivist formulations that had dominated initial criticism of the post-impressionists still lingered, but they were increasingly combined with, and in some quarters giving way to, a more formalist approach, of which Bell’s was the most emphatic. The key terms of the new formalist criticism – design, geometry, the relation of forms and planes, rhythm and abstraction – insisted on the independence of the artwork as an expressive object in its own right, rather than as a signifier of some other, primary, reality, whether that reality was a landscape, a vase of sunflowers, or the artist’s emotion. But just at the point when the war against naturalism seemed to have been largely won, the alliance of the progressives shattered into antagonistic artistic factions. The acrimonious departure of Lewis, Etchells, Hamilton and Wadsworth from Fry’s Omega Workshops in October 1913 terminated Sickert’s hopes of merging the Camden Town Group with the Grafton Group, and turned the London Group against Fry. It was at this point, as the politics of the factions sought definition, that Hulme took up his pen. But before looking at what he wrote at that moment, it is necessary to review his previous aesthetic commitments.

Bergson, Berenson, Binyon, etc.

Hulme’s comments on the visual arts are relatively rare before December 1913. In ‘A Lecture on Modern Poetry’, written in 1908, but probably revised in 1914,34 he briefly refers to Whistler; in ‘Romanticism and Classicism’, written in late 1911 or early 1912, he mentions Raphael, Titian, Turner and Constable, and he returns to the same terrain in the notes for ‘Bergson’s Theory of Art’, probably composed during the same period, praising Constable again and citing with approval Bernard Berenson’s discussion of Giotto in The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance. ‘Bergson’s Theory of Art’ also contains a reference to Laurence Binyon’s influential book on Chinese and Japanese art, The Flight of the Dragon, and a complimentary anecdote about Sickert. On 6 May 1911 Hulme sent a postcard of a Giotto fresco at the Basilica of S. Francesco in Assisi to his sister, on which he wrote that ‘This church in Assisi is very interesting, for it was practically the beginning of all modern art’. Commenting on the card’s photograph, he remarked, ‘Of course, it doesn’t look much, but when you see the kind of thing that came before it you realise how wonderful it was’.35
In the early twentieth century, these touchstones would have indicated a well-informed and up-to-date knowledge of art, if not a particularly distinctive taste. Whistler was still an iconic figure for the avant-garde, his anti-establishment criticism a key reference point for the modern artist, and his paintings the perceptual framework for descriptions of urban modernity long after Oscar Wilde’s famous remark that ‘people see fogs, not because there are fogs, but because poets and painters have taught them the mysterious loveliness of such effects’.36 Constable was receiving renewed attention in the first years of the century: C.J. Holmes’s Constable and his Influence on Landscape Painting in 1902 marked the beginning of serious scholarship on ‘the parent of the modern landscape’, though it continued to promote the prevalent theory that ‘personal freedom ... was the guiding principle of Constable’s life’, leading him to reject academic formulae for the supposedly untrammelled naturalism that governed modern painting.37 Early Italian painting had been the focus of considerable scholarly interest since the mid-nineteenth century, and Berenson’s classic work on the Florentine school had first appeared in 1896. It portrayed Florentine painting as ‘pre-eminently an art formed by great personalities’, in which ‘each man of genius brought to bear upon his art a great intellect, which ... was tirelessly striving to reincarnate what it comprehended of life in forms that could fitly convey it to others’.38 Finally, Binyon’s The Flight of the Dragon, published in 1911, was enormously influential in establishing a vocabulary not only for East Asian art, but modern Western art too. Binyon had published the highly praised Painting in the Far East in 1908, the first English-language overview of the subject, which had successfully moved the British knowledge of East Asian art beyond the late nineteenth-century craze for chinoiserie and japonisme. In The Flight of the Dragon Binyon turned his focus to the technical qualities of Chinese and Japanese art, deploying a post-impressionist-inspired vocabulary of ‘ordered relations’, ‘units of line or mass’ and ‘rhythmical relation’, which was immediately taken up by advocates of modern art like Huntly Carter in the New Age.39
Although Hulme’s canon is hardly unusual, his particular remarks suggest a specific reason for its formation. All these examples were understood at the time to challenge the notion of art history as a history of representational ability. In these references to the visual arts Hulme is developing his long-standing interest in our interpretation of the world and participating in the period’s widespread analysis of the relationship between language and meaning, a subject he explored in his earliest writings, ‘Cinders’ (begun 1906–7) and ‘Notes on Language and Style’ (c.1907). There he had observed that ‘Art creates beauty (not art copies the beauty in nature: beauty does not exist by itself in nature, waiting to be copied, only organised pieces of cinders)’.40 Anticipating influential structuralist and conventionalist readings of the visual image, Hulme asserts that paintings, just like poems, are composed in a language, or ‘symbol system’,41 that organises the ‘cindery’ – the irreducibly plural, imperfect and chaotic – nature of reality into a unity the human consciousness can grasp.42 Accordingly, when he refers to Whistler in ‘A Lecture on Modern Poetry’, it is to provide an example of the language with which ‘the modern’ reads the world: ‘We still perceive the mystery of things, but we perceive it in an entirely different way – no longer in the form of action, but as an impression, for example Whistler’s pictures.’43 In ‘Bergson’s Theory of Art’, Hulme invokes Constable as the creator of a new language through which to see landscape: ‘Great painters are men in whom has originated a certain vision of things which has become or will become the vision of everybody ... For instance the effect produced by Constable on the English and French Schools of landscape painting. Nobody before Constable saw things, or at any rate painted them, in that particular way.’44 Binyon’s interpretation of Chinese painting as ‘seiz[ing] the universal in the particular’ is harnessed to the same end.45
These readings are, of course, informed by Hulme’s study of Bergson. Although Bergson ‘has not created any new theory of art’, wrote Hulme, ‘by the acute analysis of certain mental processes he has enabled us to state more definitely and with less distortion the qualities which we feel in art’,46 that is, that ‘the essential element in the pleasure given us by a work of art lies in the feeling given us by this rare accomplishment of direct communication’.47 This is the significance of Berenson’s characterisation of the Florentine painters: his description of a painting as ‘life-communicating’ seems to Hulme to be ‘exactly what Bergson is getting at’.48 As these terms suggest, in this essay Hulme is less interested in individual works of art themselves than in the aesthetic emotion they produce, and indeed the beginning of the essay clearly states his belief in ‘an essentially aesthetic emotion’, which ‘as far as any investigation of aesthetics is concerned is the important thing’.49 His plan for a book on ‘Modern Theories of Art’ is an ‘investigation of aesthetics’ of the same sort. The notes for chapter three state that a definition of the ‘specifically aesthetic emotion’ is ‘the problem of aesthetics and the one this book principally deals with’, though it also addresses ‘The entirely different enquiry – the psychology of artistic creation – what is the nature of mind characterised as creative imagination’. Hulme evidently wrote this plan after his enthusiasm for Bergson had begun to wane and his interest in German aesthetics had taken hold; although Bergson is allocated a chapter it concludes with the ‘Defects of the theory’, whereas Theodor Lipps, the major theorist of the doctrine of Einfühlung as a theory of art, is described as ‘the greatest writer on aesthetics’, and given two chapters.50
Hulme is concerned only with philosophical aesthetics in these writings and is conspicuously less interested in art history and art criticism; in his book plan he notes the first ‘defect’ of Bergson’s theory as ‘too much founded on analysis and experience of modern art’.51 Nevertheless, his approach is broadly compatible with the expressivist criticism that his critical milieu had used to explain and categorise the new art. His definitions of art, like theirs, posit the artwork as an expression of, and inspiration to, emotion, rather than as an object entirely distinct from artist and audience. But Hulme was beginning to find this approach untenable almost as soon as he had formulated it, and in a few months he would reject the very concept of ‘aesthetic emotion’, the basis of philosophical aesthetics, and commit himself to a formalist criticism grounded in the explication of individual works of modern art. This transformation is customarily explained as a corollary to Hulme’s growing interest in the views of continental neo-classicists, most famously those of Action Française led by Pierre Lasserre and Charles Maurras, but also, according to the ‘German Chronicle’ Hulme had written in Germany in the autumn of 1913, those of the German neo-classicists, Samuel Lublinski and Paul Ernst, in whose ‘Die Stilarten in der Kunst’ (Varieties of Style in Art) Hulme probably first encountered Riegl and Worringer.52 As Miriam Hansen writes, ‘Worringer’s notion of a revival of the primitive instinct for the “Ding an sich” (which has come a long way from Kant), for the object isolated from its living context, supported Hulme’s aesthetic intentions without tying them to the Romantic premises of Bergson’s philosophy of intuition’.53 But Hulme’s absorption of these continental influences coincided with the rapid restructuring of the modern art scene in London: Hulme’s reading of Worringer was a catalyst, but by no means the only factor, in the reformulation of his writing about art.

‘The Great Difficulty in Any Talk about Art’

Where expressivist criticism was deployed inclusively, to suggest an underlying unity to the disparate artistic approaches that confronted the public around 1910, varieties of formalist criticism emerged as the different factions of artists and critics sought to define and assert the value of their individual style and allegiances. The distinctive critical vocabulary of Fry and Bell, for example, was developed as they sought to create a genealogy of modern art with Cézanne at its head, and it was consequently deeply indebted to Fry’s interpretation of Cézanne’s work. As Anna Gruetzner Robins has remarked, the ‘“geometric hardness” ... that Fry said he saw’ in Cézanne’s painting was not only a response to the famous remark attributed to Cézanne, that ‘everything in nature models itself on the cone, the cylinder and the sphere’, but ‘also gave Cézanne’s paintings an authority that was prerequisite for pictures by an artist who Fry was determined should be acknowledged as the father of modern art. Fry was keen to break with the past and his earlier exposure to the Impressionist painting he regarded as “soft”’.54 Hulme shared both the vocabulary and the rationale: he would later marshal that attributed remark to claim Cézanne as part of the ‘tendency towards abstraction’ he traced through to the work of Picasso, Epstein, and to a lesser extent, Bomberg, Nevinson and the vorticists, in order to combat Charles Ginner’s argument that Cézanne was a realist.55
Given the existence of such common genealogical denominators, debates about the legitimacy of the English descendents frequently turned on charges of lack of originality, or the use of ‘formulae’. In his first piece of art criticism, on Jacob Epstein’s exhibition at the Twenty-One Gallery, Hulme makes Epstein’s originality and modernity a central focus. But, as Robert Ferguson has discovered, Hulme’s first account of the exhibition was not the notorious ‘Mr. Epstein and the Critics’, but the unpublished, far more temperate, ‘Jacob Epstein at the 21 Gallery’.56 This initial venture into the field of art criticism has much in common with the later article, but it is instructive on its own account because it shows Hulme’s terms of approbation at an early and somewhat experimental stage. In arguing that Epstein’s drawings for future sculptures suggest that he has ‘passed through a more or less archaic period’ and ‘arrived at an entirely personal and modern method of expression’, Hulme describes the drawing Creation c.1913 as differing ‘very much from the more archaic flenite carving’:
The figure is not a self enclosed entity, simple shut-off and independent but an endeavour is made to give it what, if the word were not so dangerous, might be called atmosphere ... As the child is enclosed in the woman, so the woman herself is enclosed in certain enveloping shapes. In this way an endeavour is made to avoid the finitude of ordinary sculpture. I hesitate to use the word ‘atmosphere’ to describe this effect, for it is a word which has too many associations with impressionism. There is nothing vague about this atmosphere, it is as rigid and definite as the figure itself. What makes this and the other drawings so interesting is that they show the possible line of development of a monumental art thoroughly modern, owing nothing to the monumental art of the past. It[s] principal characteristic will probably be this complicated, rather than simple, use of abstraction in form.57
While Hulme is patently uneasy about his description of the drawing’s ‘atmosphere’, it is vital for his argument that he establish some difference of effect from ‘ordinary sculpture’ and Epstein’s archaic work, by which he means Female Figure in Flenite 1913 and Figure in Flenite 1913, on show at the exhibition, and also, presumably, Epstein’s most well-known work, the Tomb of Oscar Wilde 1909–12.58 Yet in the revised version of the article, Hulme wholly omits the distinction between Epstein’s ‘archaic’ and ‘modern’ periods (though he would include it in his later review of the London Group exhibition). In fact, the later version mounts a strong defence of the ‘use of formulæ taken from another civilisation’, arguing that the flenite carvings are not simply imitations of ‘Easter Island carvings’, indicating a ‘lack of individuality in the artist’, rather, they deploy a ‘constant and permanent alphabet’ as a ‘natural expression’ of the artist’s feeling.59 Here, then, we see Hulme deciding to reject the standard definitions of originality and to re-evaluate the very idea of using ‘formulae’.
The cause of this change becomes clear in the course of the article, as Hulme brings forward his theory, suggested by Ernst’s essay, but only hinted at by Worringer himself, that the modern artist has an affinity with the archaic sensibility.60 He had briefly introduced this idea in ‘Jacob Epstein at the 21 Gallery’, but it receives a more extended and personalised treatment in the published article, and is much more clearly directed towards combating criticisms of Epstein’s lack of originality: ‘I am moved by Byzantine mosaic, not because it is quaint or exotic, but because it expresses an attitude I agree with’, Hulme writes. ‘But the fate of the people who hold these views is to be found incomprehensible by the “progressives” and to be labelled reactionary; that is, while we arrive at such a Weltanschauung quite naturally, we are thought to be imitating the past.’61
It is well known that Hulme’s first art criticism caused an uproar in the New Age. For several weeks, the correspondence pages condemned Hulme and, to a lesser extent, Epstein. But most of the complaints were about Hulme’s remarkably malicious attack on the journal’s resident art critic, Anthony Ludovici, rather than his particular argument in Epstein’s defence. One correspondent, Arthur Hight, did refer to it, but in such a way as to demonstrate that he had read Hulme as simply defending primitive art: ‘he ought were he consistent, to be squatting naked in Easter Island surrounded by the pre-historic Art he admires, and dieting himself on roots and toadstools after the manner of savages’, he wrote.62 The New Age’s editor, A.R. Orage, was more astute, but unsympathetic: ‘Mr. T.E. Hulme has constructed an imposing myth. We are to recognise primitive vision when we see it and to appreciate whatever has been constructed on a great order of society. Rigmarole, I say, rigmarole. One does not need a myth or even the prehistoric sense to appreciate and be “charmed” by simplicity wherever it appears.’ Orage, however, found Epstein’s sculpture neither simple nor charming.63 Sickert also found Hulme’s criticism unnecessarily complicating and aligned it to a trend in criticism that he also associated with Roger Fry, deploring ‘Hulme and Bergson, and all incomprehensible bedevilments and obfuscations and convolutions and Rogerisms’.64 At the time, then, Hulme’s borrowings from Worringer made little positive impact.
However, as a part of the philosophical gloss that Hulme cast over his art criticism, they were essential to its activity: it is the texts’ logical, or sometimes pseudo-logical, distinctions, their hard oppositions and their perplexing diagrams that constitute their rhetorical distinction from other criticism of modern art; for ultimately there is little difference in argument and vocabulary. It is characteristic that Hulme represents his defence of the primitive allusions in Epstein’s work as novel, but post-impressionism had in fact long been associated with primitivism; Desmond MacCarthy had written in 1910 of Gauguin’s endeavour to return to ‘the fundamental laws of abstract form’ that he found ‘characteristic of primitive art’,65 and Fry too compared post-impressionist painting to primitive art, making precisely Hulme’s distinction: ‘most of the art here seen is neither naïve nor primitive. It is the work of highly civilised and modern men trying to find a pictorial language appropriate to the sensibilities of the modern outlook’.66 In the first instalment of his new series, ‘Modern Art’, Hulme effectively deployed his famous opposition between romanticism and classicism to denigrate ‘the pallid chalky blues, yellows and strawberry colours’ of ‘Mr. Fry and his group’, but this too was an opposition that had gained its currency in the service of the very group Hulme turned it against.67
It was not only Hulme who struggled to move beyond the critical framework so influentially coined by Fry and Bell. On 1 January, in the issue of the New Age following that which carried ‘Mr. Epstein and the Critics’, Charles Ginner unleashed his manifesto for ‘Neo-Realism’, in which he attempted to categorise his own and Harold Gilman’s work against the main currents of post-impressionism. Ginner attacked both cubism and the ‘Matisse-movement’ as formulaic applications of the work of Cézanne and Gauguin, respectively. Unlike these ‘Formula-machines’, Ginner wrote, ‘the aim of Neo-Realism is the plastic interpretation of Life through the intimate research into Nature’.68 Just over a month later, in the second ‘Modern Art’ article, Hulme responded to Ginner, defending the cubist strain of post-impressionism, but this involved some alterations to his previous definitions. Whereas before he had stressed Epstein’s ‘genius and sincerity’, in ‘“extract[ing]” from reality new methods of expression’,69 Ginner’s appropriation of similar rhetoric forced Hulme to cultivate a more deliberate formalism and eschew his previously positive description of the ‘constant and permanent alphabet’ that ‘we must call formulæ’.70 Now, only a month and a half later, he argued that ‘the new movement does not use formulæ, but abstractions, quite a different thing’.71
It is at this moment that Hulme moves Worringer’s key word, abstraction, to a central place in his criticism, but this brought its own difficulties. For Worringer, abstraction was an attempt to simplify and individuate elements of an external world perceived as ‘verworren und unklar untereinander vermengt’ (confused and obscurely intermingled), as he wrote, quoting Riegl.72 Hulme finds an equivalent simplification in ‘Cézanne’s treatment of trees’, but he predicts that ‘“the new tendency towards abstraction” will culminate, not so much in the simple geometrical forms found in archaic art, but in the more complicated ones associated in our minds with the idea of machinery’.73 Although this emphasis was surely suggested by Epstein’s drawings for Rock Drill 1913, and by Lewis’s preface to the catalogue for the Brighton exhibition in which they first appeared, Epstein’s ‘ardour for machinery’ was by his own confession ‘short-lived’, and neither Epstein nor the vorticists developed the type of abstract work Hulme envisaged.74 The consequences of Hulme’s narrowing of his critical terms become apparent in his review of The First Exhibition of Works by Members of the London Group, held at the Goupil Gallery in March 1914. He provides a cursory survey of work by Gore, Gilman, Ginner and Bevan, concluding that it is ‘dissatisfying’ but ‘infinitely better than the faked stuff produced by Mr. Roger Fry and his friends’, before settling into an account of the ‘Cubist section’. But even here, hardly any of the work corresponds to Hulme’s by now highly specialised definition of modern art. Thus, although the paintings by Lewis, Wadsworth, Hamilton and Etchells are related to ‘the main movement’ which, ‘arising out of Cubism, is destined to create a new geometric and monumental art, making use of mechanical forms’, they use ‘abstractions for their own sake in a much more scattered way’, and are therefore only ‘a minor movement’, a ‘kind of romantic heresy’.75 Once again ‘the only really satisfying and complete work in this section is that of Mr. Epstein’.76 By contrast, Fry, reviewing the same exhibition for the Nation, emerges as a far more robust supporter of what he calls the ‘newly-formed Futurist-Cubist group’; he praises ‘the clear and definite organizing power that lies behind’ Lewis’s works; is compelled by the ‘new plastic possibilities and a new kind of orchestration of color’ in Bomberg’s; and admires the ‘artistic sensibility’ and ‘spontaneous grace’ of the paintings by Frederick and Jessie Etchells.77
By the time Hulme composed his final piece of art criticism, a review of ‘Works by David Bomberg’, the inadequacy of his critical vocabulary had become a focal point of the discussion. ‘An article about one man’s pictures is not a thing I should ever do naturally’, he remarks in the first paragraph. ‘The only absolutely honest and direct and straightforward word expression of what I think as I go round such an exhibition would be a monotonous repetition of the words “This is good or fairly good. How much does that cost?”’78 He describes at length the ‘little brass instrument’ he intends to design, which would ‘enable you to indicate at once all the complicated twists and relations of form that you perceive in a picture’, and ‘would do away with the art critic’.79 This is not another Whistlerian argument for practitioner-based criticism, such as that launched against Hulme in the New Age by Sickert; Hulme even censures Bomberg’s preface to his own catalogue.80 What drives this turn against art criticism, against the use of a specialist language to describe art, is Hulme’s disagreement with the presupposition that form ‘produces a particular emotion different from the ordinary everyday emotions’. In a direct repudiation of the argument that had motivated his projected book on ‘Modern Theories of Art’, Hulme now states ‘there is no such thing as a specific aesthetic emotion, a peculiar kind of emotion produced by form alone’; indeed, ‘it could be shown that the emotions produced by abstract form are the ordinary human emotions – they are produced in a different way, that is all’.81
While this argument has a certain consistency with Hulme’s anti-romanticism, its specific vocabulary and its occurrence at this particular moment suggest that the immediate target was Clive Bell’s Art, published five months earlier and reviewed extensively. In Art, Bell secured the vocabulary that had been so energetically tested and contested in the pages of British periodicals over the last four years for a definition of art grounded in ‘significant form’ and ‘aesthetic emotion’, and a history of art that, like Hulme’s, emphasised the pre-Renaissance, but which found its fulfilment in the work of ‘Cézanne, ... Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse, Rousseau, Picasso, de Vlaminck, Derain, Herbin, Marchand, Marquet, Bonnard, Duncan Grant, Maillol, Lewis, Kandinsky, Brancuzi, von Anrep, Roger Fry, Friesz, Goncharova, [and] L’Hote’, the canon promulgated by Fry’s post-impressionist exhibitions, notably excluding the two British-based artists Hulme thought most important, Epstein and Bomberg.82 The vocabulary of Hulme’s criticism, always uncomfortably indebted to that of Fry and Bell, was now more than ever attached to associations it had sought to resist.
Despite its rhetoric to the contrary, we cannot look to Hulme for an art criticism uniquely responsive to a non-Bloomsbury, radical modernism. Hulme’s knowledge of art was largely formed by his interaction with the impressionist, post-impressionist and realist Fitzroy Street and Camden Town Groups, which had significant ideological sympathies with the Bloomsbury art groups. More importantly, his vocabulary, like that of most critics of modern art in the period, drew heavily on the early examples of Fry and Bell, and the violence of Hulme’s dissociations is testimony to that undesirable debt. His criticism, then, is something of a palimpsest: its surface emphasises its personal and amateur approach, its arguments deflect attention towards a German art historian and French literary critics, but its substance, its perceptions of individual works of art, are inevitably refracted through an English post-impressionist lens. Consequently, it is less the individual formulations than the trajectory of Hulme’s criticism that makes it such a uniquely compelling record of early twentieth-century intellectual activity. Our reading of Hulme has been transformed by Michael Levenson’s and Karen Csengeri’s chronological re-ordering of Hulme’s writings; what once appeared an idiosyncratic collection of dogmatic, if insightful and eminently quotable, opinions, has been revealed as an emphatically engaged series of conversations with contemporaries, a display of the on-going competition to define and categorise an incipient aesthetic modernity, a demonstration of formulations tried out, rejected, and refined. This is a museum of modernism in the making.
Literary modernism has always contained modernist art as a subtext, thanks largely to Hulme and to Ezra Pound. For both writers, thinking about visual art was a means of interrogating the modernist project’s core contradiction, its desire to represent modernity, despite the knowledge that modernity is, in Matei Calinescu’s phrase, ‘unrepeatable time’.83 Their art criticism and the visual analogies of their literary criticism tell of a yearning for a modernity that can be grasped, and a realisation that language cannot accomplish that task. As Andrew Thacker describes, ‘thinking through the issue of language’ was for Hulme, as for many of his contemporaries, an ‘attempt to think about the “new age” of modernity’, and the struggle for a vocabulary for art criticism is precisely a struggle with ‘the definitional problems involved in discussing modernity’.84 This nominalism, as Hulme knew, threatened the very possibility of a literary modernism, because it defined the verbal as secondary. Hulme’s response was constant revision: ‘you are compelled simply in order to be accurate to invent original ways of stating things’, he wrote.85
Did Hulme find a more satisfactory language for his lost foreword to the book on Epstein’s sculpture? The little we know of it gives scant information about its methodology or vocabulary. Hulme described it in a letter as ‘an essay on abstract sculpture’;86 Epstein told him he would like it to be ‘as comprehensive as you can make it, and to dwell mostly on my abstract works and “plastic aims” in sculpture, referring to my realistic works as a beginning or foundation for the others’;87 and, after Hulme’s death, Epstein described it as ‘a very careful and original statement of my aims in sculpture and an estimate of my achievement and it would have fulfilled for me what I have desired, a serious and non-journalistic account of my sculpture without any deferring to the taste of the editors or public’.88 While the absence of this essay is tantalising, it is also, perhaps, appropriate that what we have come to imagine as Hulme’s most important work of art criticism should be wordless, the closest we have to a manuscript consisting only of the photographs of Epstein’s sculpture from which Hulme was working. For, ultimately, Hulme’s criticism is most instructive, and most typical of the period and of an emergent modernism, in the ambiguities of its engagement with the visual arts: its attraction to new forms of expression, its desire to categorise and appropriate, its frustration with the limits of its own language. It is less a confident explanation of a distinct new style than a series of inevitably compromised gestures towards a range of overlapping experiments just coming into view. As Hulme knew, it could have a ‘definite meaning’ for only a few years, or even a few months, ‘but even that very soon lapses into a fluid condition when it means anything and nothing’.89


T.E. Hulme, ‘Bergson’s Theory of Art’, c.1911–12, first published posthumously by Herbert Read as ‘The Notebooks of T.E. Hulme’ in three instalments in the New Age, 30 March, 6 April and 13 April 1922, in Karen Csengeri (ed.), The Collected Writings of T.E. Hulme, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1994, p.191.
Robert Ferguson, The Short Sharp Life of T.E. Hulme, Allen Lane, London 2002, pp.243–55.
Alun R. Jones, The Life and Opinions of T.E. Hulme, Gollancz, London 1960, p.95.
C.R.W. Nevinson, Paint and Prejudice, Methuen, London 1937, p.63.
Ashley Dukes, The Scene is Changed, Macmillan, London 1942, pp.40–1.
Richard Curle, Caravansary and Conversation: Memories of Places and Persons, Jonathan Cape, London 1937, p.277.
W.H. Davies, Later Days, Cape, London 1925, pp.157–8.
John Gould Fletcher, Life is My Song: The Autobiography of John Gould Fletcher, Farrar & Rinehart, New York 1937, p.75.
Dukes 1942, p.41.
Davies 1925, p.157; Jones 1960, p.98.
Ferguson 2002, p.150; Nina Hamnett, Laughing Torso, Constable, London 1932, p.37; Robert A. Bevan, Robert Bevan, 1865–1925: A Memoir by his Son, Studio Vista, London 1965, p.18.
Nevinson 1937, p.56.
Wendy Baron, Perfect Moderns: A History of the Camden Town Group, Ashgate, Aldershot and Vermont 2000, pp.45, 24–43.
At the same time, some former members of the Camden Town Group and the Fitzroy Street Group resigned or allowed their membership to lapse, including Grant, Augustus John, Pissarro and Sickert (Baron 2000, pp.[14], 62–70).
Nevinson 1937, p.63.
Charles Ginner, ‘The Camden Town Group’, Studio, vol.130, November 1945, p.134.
Ibid., p.130.
‘Picture Shows: The Camden Town Group’, Times, 11 December 1911, p.12.
Ginner 1945, p.129.
‘The New English Art Club: The Fiftieth Exhibition’, Times, 1 December 1913, p.71. Even though Gore, John, Pissarro and Sickert were, or had been, members of the New English Art Club, and they, together with Bayes, Bevan, Gilman, Lightfoot and Manson had exhibited there (Baron 2000, p.41).
Ginner 1945, p.129.
Lightfoot was the other non-Fitzroy Street circle artist invited to join the Camden Town Group. He had been a member of Vanessa Bell’s Friday Club (Baron 2000, p.45).
Judith Collins, The Omega Workshops, Secker and Warburg, London 1983, pp.19–23.
Ibid., p.27; Anna Gruetzner Robins, Modern Art in Britain, 1910–1914, exhibition catalogue, Barbican Art Gallery, London 1997, p.89.
Baron 2000, p.60.
Desmond MacCarthy, ‘The Post-Impressionists’, in Manet and the Post-Impressionists, exhibition catalogue, Grafton Gallery, London 1910, p.9.
Ibid., p.7.
J.B. Manson, ‘Introduction: Rooms I–II’, in Exhibition of the Work of English Post-Impressionists, Cubists and Others [cover title Exhibition by the Camden Town Group and Others], exhibition catalogue, Public Art Galleries, Brighton 1913, pp.7–8.
Roger Fry, ‘The French Group’, in Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, Grafton Gallery, London 1912, pp.28–9.
Roger Fry, ‘Mr. Roger Fry on Some “Younger Artists”’, Art News, vol.3, 1911, p.21.
Clive Bell, ‘The English Group’, in Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition, exhibition catalogue, Grafton Galleries, London 1912, p.22.
Wyndham Lewis, ‘Room III. (The Cubist Room)’, in Exhibition of the Work of English Post-Impressionists, Cubists and Others [cover title Exhibition by the Camden Town Group and Others], exhibition catalogue, Public Art Galleries, Brighton 1913, p.10.
Vincent Sherry, Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis and Radical Modernism, Oxford University Press, New York 1993, pp.39, 202.
Ferguson 2002, p.93; K.E. Csengeri, ‘The Chronology of T.E. Hulme’s Speculations’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol.80, 1986, p.106.
Oscar Wilde, ‘The Decay of Lying’, Intentions, James R. Osgood McIlvaine, London 1891, p.40.
C.J. Holmes, Constable, At the Sign of the Unicorn, London 1901, p.1; C.J. Holmes, Constable and his Influence on Landscape Painting, Constable, London 1902, p.216.
Bernhard Berenson, The Florentine Painters of the Renaissance, Putnam’s, New York 1896, p.2.
Laurence Binyon, The Flight of the Dragon: An Essay on the Theory and Practice of Art in China and Japan, Based on Original Sources, John Murray, London, 1911, p.17; Huntly Carter, ‘Art and Drama’, New Age, 21 December 1911, p.36.
T.E. Hulme, ‘Notes on Language and Style’, c.1907, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.42.
Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols, Oxford University Press, London 1969, p.xii.
T.E. Hulme, ‘Cinders’, first published posthumously by Herbert Read as ‘The Notebooks of T.E. Hulme’ in four instalments in the New Age, 19, 26 January, 9, 16 February 1922, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, pp.9–10.
T.E. Hulme, ‘A Lecture on Modern Poetry’, probably presented to the Poets’ Club, London, November 1908, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.53.
Hulme, ‘Bergson’s Theory of Art’, c.1911–12, first published posthumously by Herbert Read as ‘The Notebooks of T.E. Hulme’ in three instalments in the New Age, 30 March, 6 April and 13 April 1922, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.194.
Ibid., p.196.
Ibid., p.191.
Ibid., p.203.
Ibid., pp.203–4. Hulme directs us to ‘the part of the book ... where he explains the superiority of Giotto to Duccio’ (p.203). Hulme misremembers: Berenson’s comparison is between Giotto and Cimabue, and although Berenson deploys the term ‘life-communicating’ a number of times in the course of his book, it does not appear in his discussion of Giotto. Its sense is certainly implied, however, and the rest of Hulme’s paragraph, his description of the different intensity given to objects by artists and non-artists, is drawn directly from Berenson’s discussion of Giotto (Berenson 1896, pp.10, 67, 71).
Hulme, ‘Bergson’s Theory of Art’, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.192.
T.E. Hulme, Speculations: Essays on Humanism and the Philosophy of Art, Herbert Read (ed.), Routledge, London 1924, pp.262, 264.
Ibid., p.263.
T.E. Hulme, ‘Modern Art and Its Philosophy’, ibid., pp.75–109, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.271; Paul Ernst, ‘Die Stilarten in der Kunst’ (1912), in Der Weg zur Form: Abhandlungen über die Technik vornehmlich der Tragödie und Novelle, Müller, Munich 1928, pp.301–11.
Miriam Hansen, ‘T.E. Hulme, Mercenary of Modernism, or, Fragments of Avantgarde Sensibility in Pre-World War I Britain’, ELH, vol.47, 1980, p.372.
Robins 1997, p.24.
T.E. Hulme, ‘Modern Art – II. A Preface Note and Neo-Realism’, New Age, 12 February 1914, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.291; Charles Ginner, ‘Neo-Realism’, New Age, 1 January 1914, p.272.
Ferguson 2002, p.150.
T.E. Hulme, ‘Jacob Epstein at the 21 Gallery’, [December 1913], pp.3–[5], Tate Archive TGA 8135/35. The typescript of this review contains corrections in Hulme’s hand, but I have retained the crossed out ‘a self enclosed entity’ to preserve the sense of the sentence. I have however followed the rest of Hulme’s corrections, which, apart from the addition of the last sentence, consist of minor refinements to the phrasing.
Titles and dates of Epstein’s sculptures follow Evelyn Silber, The Sculpture of Jacob Epstein, Phaidon, Oxford 1986.
T.E. Hulme, ‘Mr. Epstein and the Critics’, New Age, 25 December 1913, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, pp.256, 257.
Ernst 1928, p.311; Wilhelm Worringer, Abstraktion und Einfühlung: Ein Beitrag zur Stilpsychologie, Piper, Munich 1921, pp.23–4; Wilhelm Worringer, Abstraction and Empathy: A Contribution to the Psychology of Style (1908), trans. by Michael Bullock, Ivan R. Dee, Chicago 1997, p.18.
Hulme, ‘Mr. Epstein and the Critics’, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.257.
Arthur E. Hight, ‘Letter to the Editor: Art’, New Age, 8 January 1914, p.319.
‘R.H.C.’ [A.R. Orage], ‘Readers and Writers’, New Age, 8 January 1914, p.307. Despite Ann Ardis’s important argument that the New Age’s ‘very unique political and aesthetic commitments to Guild Socialism ... color the journal’s presentation of modernist visual and literary art quite strikingly – and often quite negatively’, Charles Ferrall makes a pertinent point when he observes that ‘Although Hulme’s advocacy of the art of the new industrial and technological era failed to impress his colleagues at the New Age, it nevertheless closely resembled their own support for the new militant unionism’ (Ann L. Ardis, Modernism and Cultural Conflict, 1880–1922, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2002, p.145; Charles Ferrall, Modernist Writing and Reactionary Politics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2001, p.19).
Walter Sickert, ‘A Stone Ginger’, New Age, 19 March 1914, p.632, in Anna Gruetzner Robins (ed.), Walter Sickert: The Complete Writings on Art, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2000, p.345.
MacCarthy 1910, p.11.
Fry 1912, p.14.
T.E. Hulme, ‘Modern Art – I. The Grafton Group’, New Age, 15 January 1914, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.264; Fry 1912, p.16.
Ginner 1914, pp.271–2.
Hulme, ‘Mr. Epstein and the Critics’, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, pp.258–9.
Ibid., p.256.
T.E. Hulme, ‘Modern Art – II. A Preface Note and Neo-Realism’, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.287.
Worringer 1921, p.28; Worringer 1997, p.21.
Hulme, ‘Modern – II. A Preface Note and Neo-Realism’, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.292; Hulme, ‘Modern Art and Its Philosophy’, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.282.
Lewis 1913, pp.10–12; Jacob Epstein, Let There Be Sculpture: An Autobiography, Michael Joseph, London 1940, p.70. See Patricia Rae, The Practical Muse: Pragmatist Poetics in Hulme, Pound, and Stevens, Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg 1997, pp.99–103, for a discussion of the ‘tense balance between abstraction and representation’ in vorticist art (p.101).
T.E. Hulme, ‘Modern Art – III. The London Group’, New Age, 26 March 1914, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, pp.294–5.
Ibid., p.297.
Roger Fry, ‘Art: Two Views of the London Group: I’, Nation, vol.14, 14 March 1914, pp.998–9.
T.E. Hulme, ‘Modern Art – IV. Mr. David Bomberg’s Show’, New Age, 9 July 1914, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.302.
Ibid., p.304.
Ibid, pp.303–5; Walter Sickert, ‘Drawing from the Cast’, New Age, 23 April 1914, p.781, in Robins (ed.) 2000, pp.356–9.
Hulme, ‘Modern Art – IV. Mr. David Bomberg’s Show’, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.306.
Clive Bell, Art, Chatto & Windus, London 1914, pp.7–8, 200. Hulme’s only explicit discussion of Art occurs in his ‘War Notes’, published in the New Age on 13 January 1916, when he sets it against Bell’s pacifist pamphlet Peace at Once (1916) (Hulme, ‘War Notes’, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, pp.374–6).
Matei Calinescu, Five Faces of Modernity: Modernism, Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch, Postmodernism, Duke University Press, Durham 1987, p.13.
Andrew Thacker, ‘A Language of Concrete Things: Hulme, Imagism and Modernist Theories of Language’, in Edward P. Comentale and Andrzej Gasiorek (eds.), T.E. Hulme and the Question of Modernism, Ashgate, Aldershot 2006, p.41.
Hulme, ‘Bergson’s Theory of Art’, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.200.
Ferguson 2002, p.247.
Ibid., p.254.
Ibid., p.271.
Hulme, ‘Bergson’s Theory of Art’, in Csengeri (ed.) 1994, p.191.
First published in Edward P. Comentale and Andrzej Gasiorek (eds.), T.E. Hulme and the Question of Modernism, Ashgate, Aldershot 2006, pp.57–71.
Rebecca Beasley is University Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow in the Faculty of English at Queen’s College, University of Oxford.

How to cite

Rebecca Beasley, ‘‘A Definite Meaning’: The Art Criticism of T.E. Hulme’, in Helena Bonett, Ysanne Holt, Jennifer Mundy (eds.), The Camden Town Group in Context, Tate Research Publication, May 2012,, accessed 22 May 2024.