Chatto and Windus have just brought out at five shillings a book of absorbing interest, by Mr. Clive Bell, entitled “Art.” No one who reads it will, I am sure, find the brief and somewhat comprehensive title either arrogant or misleading. It contains some of the profoundest, truest and most courageous considerations stated with connected and well-supported conviction. The book is not only racy and readable, but – rarest of all things on this subject – it is comprehensible. The book may be described as an endeavour to disengage, in the consideration of painting, that something, apart from representation, which makes of one canvas a work of art, and of another a still-born record of facts. Briefly summarised Mr. Bell suggests that this something is the creation of significant form.
Quel che vien de tinche tanche,
I doubt if the critics of a decade even look at the work that their little fashions consider to have been ruled out. Ten years ago salvation was not to be found outside the New English Art Club. With its “centres” of Mr. Sargent’s less important, and Mr. von Glehn’s more important commissions, it was supposed to differ in kind from the Royal Academy, and to constitute a “movement.” The Royal Academy still remains the critic’s bugbear, and Sir Edward Poynter is cast, ex officio, for the rôle of Beelzebub. I wonder if Mr. Fry and Mr. Bell have really ever had a drawing by Sir Edward Poynter in their hands since they left Cambridge. They will not suspect me of academic prejudice. Would they be surprised to hear that I believe that the painters of the future are much more likely to turn for guidance to the excellent Ingres tradition that lingers in Sir Edward’s painting, and that I consider his drawings to belong to the rapidly diminishing category of real drawings? It is absurd that I should have to insist on this.
© Estate of Walter R. Sickert