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5 - Close Looking

Adrian Stokes Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Piero's perspective: art and science i

Piero [della Francesca] achieved equation between true science and a majestic rapture from the earth. We sense geometry and number expressing the amplitude of love: we witness an untorn naturalism: a universal myth that is apart.

Love and the love of perspective were one, the perspective, for instance, of tilted circular shapes expressed with the slow piety of very exact drawing. Yes, piety, but more than piety, far more than the Gothic bent for the encrusted curve of a gold nimbus, inspired the correspondence that is broad and temperate between his volumes. We have from him the widest vistas and therein the equal simultaneous constancy of things; a stillness that is not archaic, a fullness without boast, a massive self-contentment in the very stream of adult life. But he delighted also to show the virtuosity, as it were, of his rooted shapes in his fondness of temporary structures or of any such apparatus to whose related forms he could, like the dying sun on an autumn day, unexpectedly attribute a durable and selfsufficient sense. Similarly his men, even on the battlefield, in virtue of volume, of affinities between volumes and their intervals, vibrant, earthly, engrossed, possess the flux and the chance. Piero's science serves both to distinguish exactly each particular and to embrace it. Agitation borrows the broad arc of calm. The geometry is at peace with a deep-rooted organic structure, product of chromatic sense. Francescan forms are brothers and sisters at ease within the ancestral hall of space.

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Appendix 2

Adrian Stokes Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Eric Rhodei

Far from being Olympian, Adrian Stokes was among the most hospitable of men: alert to distress in others and willing, at considerable cost to himself, to be of help; both receptive to ideas and able to enjoy the pleasures of small talk. But even on a first meeting with him it became clear that the essential Stokes was a very private person. He was involved in some communion with himself that could not be intruded into; at the same time, and in no manner, could this communion be ignored. It shone forth in his aspect: in crowded rooms his look of vulnerable nobility set him apart. And its richness spilled out in conversation, as in his sometimes obscure stating of a viewpoint that fascinated by the breadth of its connections, or in the lucid, casual remark that could cut to the quick of an argument. He had nothing to do with what he describes in one of these papers as the “unceasing expostulation” of polite society.

It would be natural, yet too limited, to see the content of his thought in terms of his life-long allegiance to the arts or, more accurately, to the idea of art itself. Two memories throw light, perhaps, on the varied intensities of this allegiance. On the opening morning of the great Matisse retrospective, held at the Hayward Gallery in 1968, he seemed overwrought, even wild – like some young man about to take out his beloved for the first time. However, on a later visit to the National Gallery he gave every sign of being at home. We wandered among the Venetians. Whenever he made an observation on the paintings, as when he referred to Titian's deftness in suggesting the contours of an old man's shoulder, he did so sparely. His pleasure was intimate. Although he sometimes wrote about art as a kind of theology, he declined to see the process of making or appreciating it as hierophantic. They were both embedded in practicality, as robust as agriculture and not entirely dissimilar. In much the same way as he distrusted the motives of artists who work everything up into a frenzy, he sensed the envy underlying the post-Romantic idealization of the artist that attends so much modern publicity.

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CHAPTER ONE The quest for sanity

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The quest for sanity

One day men will learn to think of sanity as an aesthetic achievement.

(“Living in Ticino”, 1964)

The arts of life i


hile I might welcome the accusation of being continuously in touch with the quality of psychoanalytic thought, I should find it uncomfortable were my abstractions or my method laid at the door of that science; if only because I bring non-clinical material to bear: and again, the use I have made of my own experience is effected with little particularization except in the outside world. But more than that: the kind of mirroring I attempt is unconnected with a scientific procedure; is undivorced from an even longer preoccupation with the arts.

I do not find that these two angles of focus for existence are at variance. From the angle of the arts of life, it is at first disquieting

i From the foreword, Smooth and Rough, 1951, pp. 11-12; Critical Writings

II, pp. 215-216.



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CHAPTER TWO Art and the inner world

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Art and the inner world

Painting and the inner world i


t seems desirable that I give a precise account of what I mean by the inner world, the one of Freud and Melanie

Klein. Apart from the fact that I claim no precise picture, there is always the difficulty that the concepts of psychoanalysis are little known and far less understood, yet it is impossible to interpolate several treatises available elsewhere.

The aspect of the psyche that most concerns our context is the potential chaos and the attempts to achieve stability whether predominantly through defences of splitting such as getting rid of parts of the psyche on to other people, or through denial, omnipotence, idealization, or whether predominantly by the less excluding method, the prerogative of the truly adult being, that entails recognition of great diversity in the psyche under the aegis of trust in a good object. The word “object” may seem obscure but it is used with determination. By means of introjection, the i From Painting and the Inner World, 1963, pp. 5-9; Critical Writings III, pp. 210-213.


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3 - Modes of Art and Modes of Being

Adrian Stokes Harris Meltzer Trust ePub

Carving and modelling i

So we shall now attack the vital though confused aesthetic distinction between carving and modelling. There must be a profound aesthetic distinction between them. As everyone knows, carving is a cutting away, while modelling or moulding is a building up. Agostino's virtue will shed new light upon the high imaginative constructions which common fantasy has placed around each of these antithetical processes (imagination itself is a plastic agency, fashioning its products with fragments). Agostino's virtue will illumine afresh the field of visual art. For the distinction between carving and modelling proves to be most suggestive in relation to all visual art.

That distinction between carving and modellingii is for me one of the most fruitful in the visual arts: it applies to all of those arts. I enlarged in this distinction in Stones of Rimini. I showed that in the early Renaissance there was an architecture and sculpture that is the epitome of carving conception. Also in The Quattro Cento I showed that there is constancy of life in early Renaissance stone ornaments, a tense communion with the plane from which they were cut. These ornaments do not give the effect of having been stuck there. On the contrary they are integral with their background plane. They appear to be more than decoration: for through them we witness powers in the wall on which they lie, just as his face shows the man. Whatever its plastic value, a figure carved in stone is fine carving when one feels that not the figure, but the stone through the medium of the figure, has come to life. Plastic conception, on the other hand, is uppermost when the material with which, or from which, a figure has been made appears no more than so much suitable stuff for this creation […].

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