The Avant-Garde in Interwar England: Medieval Modernism and the London Underground

By Michael T. Saler | Go to book overview

NOTE

PREFACE
1
Louis Menand, “Edwardian and Modernist Puzzles, ” The Sewanee Review 2 (Spring 1990), 271.
2
Charles Harrison, English Art and Modernism 1900–1939 (London: Allan Tate, 1981) and S. K. Tillyard in The Impact of Modernism 1900–1920: Early Modernism and the Arts and Crafts Movement in Edwardian England (London: Routledge, 1988) have both discussed the influence of the arts and crafts movement on Roger Fry. Harrison notes some of the affinities between Fry's ideas and those of Ruskin and Morris and then argues that Fry and Bell's “aesthetic” conception of art separated them from Ruskin and Morris's sociological conception. He also maintains that formalism was the dominant aesthetic in England for most of the interwar period (184, 308). Tillyard argues that the “discourse” of the arts and crafts movement shaped Fry's initial explanation of postimpressionism, as well as the public's reception of “Manet and the Post-Impressionists.” She then contends that Fry and Bell developed a more specific “language” and “aesthetic” for postimpressionism between 1910–14 that no longer referred to the arts and crafts aesthetic and that this new formalist discourse prevailed following the First World War (199–216, 248–50). Thus, while arguing for continuities through 1910, she also sees the years 1910–12 as marking a decisive break with the past that was firmly established by 1918. I argue that this strictly formalist aesthetic was strongly challenged throughout the interwar period by adherents of the arts and crafts tradition.

In addition to the works of Harrison and Tillyard, see also Frances Borzello, who argues that while William Morris influenced many fields, “of all the fields he influenced, fine art remained untouched.” Frances Borzello, Civilizing Caliban: The Misuse of Art, 1875–1980 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987), 7. As to Morris's wider social impact, Jeffrey Spear writes that “The fact that Morris' specific influence is more often discussed in artistic rather than political terms suggests Morris' failure to convince many outside of his class or the world of art that the cause of art was indeed that of the people.” This may be a valid assessment for the period while Morris was still alive, but it is not true for the interwar period when Morris's followers did manage to convince many within the worlds of government, industry, education, and art that “the cause of art was indeed that of the people.” Jeffrey Spear, Dreams of an English Eden: Ruskin and His Tradition in Social Criticism (New York: Columbia

-177-

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The Avant-Garde in Interwar England: Medieval Modernism and the London Underground
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Contents xiii
  • 1 - Framing the Picture 3
  • 2 - Frank Pick's City of Dreams, 1878–1915 25
  • 3 - Modernism and the North of England 44
  • 4 - Morris, the Machine, and Modernism, 1915–1934 61
  • 5 - The Earthly Paradise of the London Underground 92
  • 6 - Educating the Consumer 122
  • 7 - The Return of the Bathing Beauties, 1936–1941 148
  • 8 - The Demise of Medieval Modernism 165
  • Note 177
  • Selected Bibliography 219
  • Index 235
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