The Need to Give: The Patron and the Arts

By Andrew Sinclair | Go to book overview
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9
The Three Cultures

'WAR', JOHN RUSKIN stated, 'is the foundation of all the arts.' It had been in the beginning of human history, in Athens during the time of Pericles, in the Italian city states of the Renaissance, and was to be in Britain during the Second World War, when the state began to replace the crown, the peerage, the church, and the rich as the prime source of artistic finance. The initial decision to do this was, as usual, almost fortuitous and rather hilarious. The private Pilgrim Trust, backed by an American benefactor Stephen Harkness, had funded a prewar programme of travelling exhibitions called 'Art for the People'. When hostilities were declared with Germany, the trust's secretary, Dr Thomas Jones, went to the University of London to meet two peers, Lord Macmillan, then Minister of Information, and Lord De La Warr, the President of the Board of Education. Both ministers wished to encourage the Pilgrim Trust to give more grants and prevent a black-out of culture during the war. Dr Jones wanted state aid as well. As his later account reported:

Lord De La Warr was enthusiastic. He had Venetian visions of a post-war Lord Mayor's Show on the Thames in which the Board of Education led the Arts in triumph from Whitehall to Greenwich in magnificent barges and gorgeous gondolas; orchestras, madrigal singers, Shakespeare from the Old Vic, ballet from Sadler's Wells, shining canvases from the Royal Academy, folk dancers from village greens -- in fact, Merrie England. Lord Macmillan's grave judicial calm collapsed suddenly and completely. At the moment he was responsible for the

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