Last Lectures

Last Lectures

Last Lectures

Last Lectures

Excerpt

When, in 1933, Roger Fry was elected to the post of Slade Professor at Cambridge University, he was sixty-seven years of age and had long been known as the best living English writer on art. Though he had never been as widely read as Ruskin, his influence on taste and on the theory of art had spread to quarters where his name was barely known. A large, confused section of the public, dimly desiring to appreciate works of art, had begun to prefer coloured reproductions of Cézanne and Van Gogh to the meagre, respectable etchings which had furnished houses of a preceding generation; and many of Fry's theories had been assimilated by those who had never read a word of his writings. In so far as taste can be changed by one man, it was changed by Roger Fry. When, therefore, he was at last given an official pulpit, his doctrines might seem to have been already well known. But Fry was the last man in the world to become set and formal. Although he was remarkably consistent in the main outlines of his beliefs, his mind was invincibly experimental and ready for any adventure, however far it might lead him beyond the boundaries of academic tradition. There can never have been a less professorial Professor. 'I must confess', he says in the lecture on Vitality, here published, 'that I have the habit, perhaps rather reprehensible in a Professor, of lecturing about subjects of which I know very little in the hope of gaining some clearer notions of them. I dare say we shall not get very far to-day, but we shall at least have looked inquisitively at a number of works of art, and we may note some rather strange facts, and with luck arrive at some suggestions of correlated ideas.' With luck. It is a form of words which seldom occurs in the pedagogic style.

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