‘Large Aesthetic Umbrella’: The 澳门六合彩开奖app’s 60th Anniversary and Archive

The story of the founding of the 澳门六合彩开奖app has not been written, reports JEFFREY PETTS. 鈥淚t is quite a story鈥, wrote the Society鈥檚 first Hon. Secretary, Sylvia Schweppe, 鈥渁nd when I have the time I shall try and write it up鈥.

That was in a letter to the Society in 1988. I don鈥檛 know if she did. There鈥檚 no evidence in the archive that contained the letter. She鈥檇 attached to the letter a copy of newspaper clippings from 1960. But, that鈥檚 all the archive offers.

The Daily Telegraph thought the Society鈥檚 wide interpretation of 鈥榓esthetics鈥 to include psychology, sociology, anthropology, cultural history, art criticism, and education, an 鈥渁larmingly large umbrella鈥. It ended suggesting 鈥溾橝esthetics鈥 used to be a frightening word, but now we know that for at least two hundred Britons it has no terrors鈥. The first membership of 200 included 20 representing the new Society at the 4th International Congress of Aesthetics in Athens.

Sylvia Schweppe had no doubt worked tirelessly to, as she wrote, 鈥済et the Society on its feet when previous efforts had failed鈥. Herbert Read, the Society鈥檚 first President, had proposed a 澳门六合彩开奖app in March 1960. The Guardian reported the proposal and a provisional committee that also included Ruth Saw and Paul Hodin, as well as Sylvia Schweppe. It reports that the committee hoped leading figures in the arts would join. And that in the meantime Read was off on a 6 week lecture tour in America.

I wonder if Read left Schweppe with a list of possible 鈥榣eading figures鈥 to contact. The archive contains a statement of the Society鈥檚 aims that I assume was sent with covering letters to them. Disappointingly, the archive doesn鈥檛 contain any of that correspondence. But the results are evident in the first Advisory Committee. The typed list has 鈥淏ritten, Benjamin鈥 added in ink. Perhaps, I speculate, he was the last to accept the invitation to be on the committee, duly impressed to be in the company of Sir Kenneth Clark, Sir John Gielgud, Henry Moore, and Yehudi Menuhin, among others.

The archive has evidence too of the efforts to get funding for the Society and a publisher for a journal. Again, Sylvia Schweppe is seen in letters to and from organisations like the Nuffield Foundation and the Carnegie Trust using Read鈥檚 status to get financial backing. She writes, again in the 1988 letter, that 鈥淚 was personally responsible for getting a publisher for the Journal when all seemed lost鈥. Sadly, again, the archive doesn鈥檛 contain sufficient material to fill out the story. But, we know the result was successful. The Journal鈥檚 first issue was published before 1960 was out.

A series of lectures had been arranged too, including lectures by composer Alan Rawsthorne and violinist Yehudi Menuhin. Lectures by philosophically-minded practitioners would be a feature of Society meetings for a few years more and included the potter Bernard Leach and painter John Hoyland. The archive contains a Member鈥檚 Card for 1962-63 that gives a flavour of the Society鈥檚 interests and operation. By then, Sylvia Schweppe had left. And the Society was changing focus too.

Jeffrey Petts

澳门六合彩开奖app: A Memoir

The 澳门六合彩开奖app was formed in 1960 to promote discussion and research into the theory of art and criticism and the principles of appreciation. This objective of course expresses a particular moment in the history of aesthetics. The Society was founded by a group of people including Sir Herbert Read (pictured), Dr (later Professor) Ruth Saw and Harold Osborne.

The first issue of the British Journal of Aesthetics appeared in November 1960. The Journal has gone from strength to strength and maintains the pre-eminent position in the field first established by Harold Osborne. It has been published on behalf of the Society by a succession of Britain鈥檚 leading publishers, first Routledge & Kegan Paul, then Thames & Hudson and since 1975, Oxford University Press. Terry Diffey succeeded Harold Osborne as editor in November 1977 and Peter Lamarque became editor in January 1995. John Hyman and Elisabeth Schellekens are the current editors.

Terry Diffey has kindly written a memoir of the Society and the Journal which will be invaluable to anyone interested in the history of aesthetics as a discipline. You can read his recollections here:

In the year of the 50th anniversary of Herbert Read’s death, Jeffrey Petts looks back at the life and work of the 澳门六合彩开奖app’s first president. 

Herbert Read: Art, Anarchism, and Aesthetics

 Portrait by Feliks Topolski, 1961

A recent introduction by Will Gompertz, BBC arts correspondent, to a reissue of Herbert 搁别补诲鈥檚&苍产蝉辫;The Meaning of Art (1931) sets its contemporary relevance in the context of conceptual art. Duchamp鈥檚 meaning of art prevails, he suggests, and any budding Read would be chased out of the artworld today because of their ultimate concern with the experiential effects of art on lives. That Read presents such a contrasting view of art, and one that challenges 21st century artworld dogmas, is true but the context is wider. The last section of Meaning argues that the artist鈥檚 work exemplifies 鈥渨ill-to-form鈥; it is this aesthetic activity that is ultimately Read鈥檚 concern and adds a political dimension to his philosophy. For Read sees in that the necessity of adhering to an 鈥榰npolitics鈥, as he sometimes called his anarchism.

Read did not just champion 鈥榤odern art鈥 and artists but argued via them for conditions in which art, all creative work, flourishes. Read鈥檚 鈥減ersonal confession of faith鈥 鈥 Poetry and Anarchism (1938) 鈥 expressed his conviction that the world (art and beyond) needs 鈥渘o programme鈥: that individuals and works are formed by their aesthetic activities, which then create the realisation and enjoyment of 鈥渢he anarchy of life鈥.

The integrity of Read鈥檚 art criticism, history and philosophy, together with his politics and views on education, were recognised by Adrian Stokes and J.P. Hodin in the July 1964 issue of the British Journal of Aesthetics, both celebrating Read鈥檚 70th birthday (Read was then the 澳门六合彩开奖app鈥 first President). So while noting Read鈥檚 historic support for 鈥榓rt now鈥 (Moore, Nicholson, Hepworth) Stokes also thought Read argued a 鈥渘ovel case for art as a necessity for human beings鈥. He saw how aesthetic activity for Read is not simply 鈥榟eightened鈥 work but the 鈥減rime base for any degree of culture鈥. Stokes noted then affinities with the philosophy of John Ruskin but regarded Read鈥檚 as 鈥渂roader鈥 in making the philosophy of aesthetics that of 鈥榗reativeness鈥. Hodin noted Read鈥檚 catholicity of interests and many activities, seeing them as potentially a source of difficulty in assessing Read鈥檚 philosophy and its significance. He observed a 鈥渞ichness of aesthetic feeling over any scientific training鈥 that was reflected in Read鈥檚 aesthetics and advocacy of sensuous appreciation as prior to any intellectual activity. Still, Hodin understood that Read argued for a kind of primary aesthetic apprehension of reality and that this was a powerful idea of the aesthetic. Hodin quotes Read: 鈥淚n the end Art should so dominate our lives that we might say: 鈥楾here are no longer works of art but Art only. For art is then the way of life鈥欌. Norman Potter, designer and fellow anarchist, quoted in a 1998 reassessment of Read edited by David Goodway, also defended him against criticism of being 鈥榙iffuse and evasive鈥, unscientific, by focusing on Read鈥檚 aesthetic philosophy of life and his 鈥榬eal courage鈥 in arguing its political dimension, for example in public meetings defending the Freedom Group in the 1940s.

This 50th anniversary of Read鈥檚 death is an opportunity to think about his 鈥榓esthetic philosophy鈥 and the focus it might give philosophical aesthetics now. Read used a Williams Morris anniversary similarly. Writing in The Observer on the 100th anniversary (1934) of William Morris鈥檚 birth, Herbert Read noted how Morris was typically regarded as variously and discretely poet, designer, and socialist-anarchist but all could be integrated around an idea of the aesthetic. Indeed Read and Morris share a conception of aesthetic interest as essentially related to work: in essence, the joy in making things and 鈥渁 conception of life as an aesthetic whole鈥 that Read rightly saw in Morris鈥檚 work and philosophy.

George Woodcock鈥檚 1972 intellectual biography of Read casts his aesthetic philosophy as art criticism bridged to politics and aesthetic education. That鈥檚 broadly true and perhaps best illustrated by Read鈥檚 鈥楢rt and the Development of the Individual鈥 in The Form of Things Unknown (1960). The essay identifies 鈥榓rt鈥 with Individual creativity; and the development of both individuals and society with creative work. Read argues that the idea of development “must not be understood as implying any ethical notions of progress” but as ‘progressive adaptation’, about keeping a vitality in our relationships with the environment. Art plays its essential role as the most effective means of human communication. Myth, ritual, poetry, drama, painting, and sculpture are not just “grist for the analytical mill” but the way “mankind has kept itself mentally alert and therefore biologically vital”. Read goes on to consider therefore art education in the context of both individual ability (specifically with reference to J. Field鈥檚 On Not Being Able To Paint) and general alienating conditions of work. Read concludes with a vision of “a society in which everyone was an artist of some sort鈥 and one thus 鈥渘ecessarily united in concrete creative enterprises”.

These themes are pursued in Art Now (1933), The Grass Roots of Art (1947), through to The Redemption of the Robot (1969). Central to Art Now is the argument that 鈥渁ll of us are without freedom if we don鈥檛 follow the artistic lead鈥 (set by artists like Henry Moore, who are the particular focus of the book). And Read thinks this is a revolutionary position without being political in the conventional sense, working as it does on the plane of human spirit and imagination. In Grass Roots, art is seen as a 鈥榮ocial bond鈥 鈥渟o long as it is aesthetic鈥. Read鈥檚 meaning of 鈥榓esthetic鈥 refers to communicating by means and rules to which our senses respond. He thus calls non-aesthetic art 鈥渕asochistic鈥 because it denies the pleasure of a basic 鈥渇ormative activity鈥. Contemplating a world of automation, in Redemption Read asks 鈥淲hat remains for man? Man must become an artist and fill his new-found leisure with creative activity鈥.

搁别补诲鈥檚&苍产蝉辫;Anarchy and Order (1954) is subtitled 鈥榚ssays in politics鈥 but even here Read stresses that there is no categorical separation between this 鈥淎narchism鈥 and the philosophy that appears in his literary criticism, poetry, and his writing on art more generally. He reflects candidly too on the seeming absurdity of saying one is an anarchist; but he is committed to the idea of aesthetic experience as an experience of 鈥渙rganic freedom鈥. For Read, this idea of freedom, the idea of 鈥渄aring to create authentically鈥, meant necessarily rejecting attempts at the rational organisation of society. It informed Read鈥檚 rejection of Russian communism and his anarchism and also allied him to French existentialism. The seeming paradox of anarchical order 鈥 its 鈥榓bsurdity鈥 one might say 鈥 is resolved as experiential anarchy and aesthetic order, akin to existentialist 鈥榗hoice鈥 but with an added aesthetic 鈥榳ill-to-form鈥. For Read anarchism meant 鈥渁 new social order鈥 providing personal freedom and 鈥渙pportunities for creative activities鈥.

Read鈥檚 anarchism led him to questions about aesthetic education, to the 鈥樷漧ost notion of cultivating senses 鈥 sensibility鈥. This education is not, for Read, properly, separated from considerations of work generally. So it goes far beyond education in the fine arts, the type of aesthetic education in any case Read thought guilty of failing to deliver sensibility to its students (as he notes in Art and Society (1937) for example). The idea of 鈥榮ensibility鈥 is linked to creative work, extending beyond sensibility in artistic making and appreciation. The general aims of aesthetic education, properly speaking, relate to work showing an aesthetic interest in form and function of whatever the maker produces; it shifts its focus to educating makers of things, rather than educating taste in appreciating artworks. In Redemption, Read also thinks this especially important if automation isn鈥檛 to leave us bored with life.

By this route, aesthetics, for Read, broadens to a general philosophy of human development. This educational focus is similar to that of John Dewey who was concerned that philosophical enquiry should centre on experiences that encourage and build sensibility, are both agreeable and individually and socially valuable.

Read鈥檚 鈥榓esthetic philosophy鈥 suggests a broad scope and set of aims for philosophical aesthetics. If philosophical aesthetics since Read鈥檚 heyday has broadened its subject range (most obviously with its interest in 鈥榚veryday aesthetics鈥) and intellectual depth (drawing still more, where needed, on other disciplines), still Read might wonder if this is properly, as he鈥檇 argue, in the developmental service of an aesthetic philosophy of life. It is perhaps that which marks out Read鈥檚 potential continued significance as a philosopher. In the poem Moon鈥檚 Farm (1951) Read reflected on his philosophy and was content with its 鈥渘atural outlook鈥. But he rejects materialism for a kind of experiential, existential philosophy based on the probity of aesthetic experiences. Read鈥檚 aesthetic philosophy, work-centred and developmental, though often drawing on other disciplines too, isn鈥檛 reducible to a scientific or ethical aesthetics. Rather it seems more in the founding tradition of aesthetics established by Baumgarten and clearly owes much too to Schiller鈥檚 ideas about a distinctive kind of human work and its aesthetic 鈥榩lay鈥.

Read is also a notable figure representing a broadly social and developmental tradition in British philosophical aesthetics that held some sway particularly between roughly 1850 and 1950. It started with reactions to industrialisation and particularly the state of industrial design at the 1851 Great Exhibition; its key text was Ruskin’s Stones of Venice (1853) chapter on the nature of the Gothic worker. Its practical and theoretic high and end points were the 1951 Festival of Britain and included 搁别补诲鈥檚&苍产蝉辫;Education Through Art (1943). Yet the kinds of economic and social conditions that prompted this tradition in philosophical aesthetics remain real, indeed with the increased intensity of a data-driven and un-aesthetic world. Read鈥檚 aesthetic philosophy made him ask questions like 鈥渋s there a possibility of guiding our machine civilization by putting things first and their proper aesthetic making?鈥 He wondered whether “in a world shrinking under a network of high-speed communication” an epoch without art was dawning. Read offers then an everyday 鈥榩olitical鈥 vitality and relevance to philosophical aesthetics in directing enquiry to our aesthetic lives, into the very conditions of humanity.

Jeffrey Petts

(With thanks to Terry Diffey for introducing me to the portrait by Topolski in the October 1965 edition of the British Journal of Aesthetics and to other references to Read in the journal鈥檚 early years)