Clive Bell and the Making of Modernism

Kathryn Hughes at The Guardian:

Bell performed his project of, to use Hussey’s subtitle, “making modernism” chiefly through the championing of “modern art”. By this he meant painting that eschewed anecdote, nostalgia or moral messaging in favour of lines and colours combined to stir the aesthetic sense. For ease of reference, he called the thing he was after “significant form”. While sensible Britain saw cubism, together with post-impressionism, as incoherent and formless to the point of lunacy, Bell followed the example of the older and more expert critic Roger Fry in reframing these movements as heroic attempts to purge the plastic arts of any lingering attachment to representational fidelity. His great touchstones were French (he called Paul Cézanne “the great Christopher Columbus of a new continent of form”) but admitted that occasionally you found an English painter who was making the right shapes – Vanessa Bell, say, or Duncan Grant. The fact that Vanessa was his wife and Duncan her lover detracted only slightly from his pronouncements.

more here.