Clive Bell (September 16, 1881 - September 17, 1964)
Born: 16th September, 1881
Died: 17th September, 1964
Nationality: English
Profession/Occupation: Critic
Region: England, London
Notable works: "Art"

Clive Bell Facts


Clive Bell, in full Arthur Clive Heward Bell, (born September 16, 1881, East Shefford, Berkshire, England--died September 17, 1964, London), English art critic who helped popularize the art of the Post-Impressionists in Great Britain.

Bell graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1902 and spent the next several years studying art in Paris and then back in London. In 1907 he married Vanessa Stephen, the sister of Virginia Stephen (later Virginia Woolf), and he was an early active member of the circle of English writers and artists called the Bloomsbury group. Bell also formed an important friendship with the English art critic Roger Fry in 1910, and together they organized the landmark second Post-Impressionist exhibition that was held in London in 1912.

Bell's most important contribution to art criticism was the theory of "significant form," as described in his books Art (1914) and Since Cezanne (1922). He asserted that purely formal qualities--i.e., the relationships and combinations of lines and colours--are the most important elements in works of art. The aesthetic emotion aroused in the viewer by a painting springs primarily from an apprehension of its significant form, rather than from a "reading" of its subject matter. Bell pointed to the works of Paul Cezanne as those in which formal properties were manifested most purely, and Bell also attacked the public's preoccupation with the anecdotal, narrative, and morally didactic functions of traditional realistic painting.

Bell's assertion that art appreciation involves an emotional response to purely formal properties proved widely influential for several decades, though he was later seriously criticized for his sweeping assertion of the primacy of form over content in art. Among Bell's other publications are Landmarks in Nineteenth-Century French Painting (1927) and a volume of reminiscences, Old Friends: Personal Recollections (1956).

Top 14 Clive Bell quotes

Do not mistake a crowd of big wage-earners for the leisure class.
It would follow that 'significant form' was form behind which we catch a sense of ultimate reality.
All sensitive people agree that there is a peculiar emotion provoked by works of art.
Art and Religion are, then, two roads by which men escape from circumstance to ecstasy. Between aesthetic and religious rapture there is a family alliance. Art and Religion are means to similar states of mind.
Comfort came in with the middle classes.
Genius worship is the inevitable sign of an uncreative age.
I will try to account for the degree of my aesthetic emotion. That, I conceive, is the function of the critic.
It is the mark of great art that its appeal is universal and eternal.
Great art
Only reason can convince us of those three fundamental truths without a recognition of which there can be no effective liberty: that what we believe is not necessarily true; that what we like is not necessarily good; and that all questions are open.
The forms of art are inexhaustible; but all lead by the same road of aesthetic emotion to the same world of aesthetic ecstasy.
There must be some one quality without which a work of art cannot exist; possessing which, in the least degree, no work is altogether worthless.
No work
We all agree now - by 'we' I mean intelligent people under sixty - that a work of art is like a rose. A rose is not beautiful because it is like something else. Neither is a work of art. Roses and works of art are beautiful in themselves.
Intelligent people
We have no other means of recognising a work of art than our feeling for it.
A rose is the visible result of an infinitude of complicated goings on in the bosom of the earth and in the air above, and similarly a work of art is the product of strange activities in the human mind.
Human mind

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