Clive Bell (1881 to 1964) art critic


Clive Bell died in the year that I was born. Clive was another Cambridge graduate (he gained a second class degree in History) and was from a wealthy background. His father was a civil engineer who made his fortune in the family coal mines.

Clive became Vanessa’s husband and they had two sons, Julian and Quentin. However, the marriage didn’t last too long and the Bells drifted into a lasting friendship instead. He remained part of the family really and later on in 1939, he actually lived at Charleston when Vanessa lived there with Duncan Grant.  Not your conventional set up.

Clive  spent much of his time reading and writing. He was a believer in ‘Art for arts sake’ and was primarily concerned with aesthetic rather than instrumental considerations.  Aestheticism and Instrumentalism were two major cultural and intellectual movements in modernist art and literature. Followers of Aestheticism believed in art for its own sake;  those inclined towards Instrumentalism believed that art should have  a purpose; social, moral, political. In reality though, no artist was completely indifferent to either school of thought.

You may be interested to read my essay on Eliot and Brecht, an aesthete and an instrumentalist. My essay on modernism shows how Eliot’s  poetry rejected traditional conventions of the late Victorian era and made the mundane aesthetically pleasing. It also shows how Brecht’s Instrumentalism is used to encourage social change. Not for the faint hearted.


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