This important new study reevaluates British art writing and the rise of formalism in the visual arts from 1900 to 1939. Taking Roger Fry as his starting point, Sam Rose rethinks how ideas about form influenced modernist culture and the movement’s significance to art history today.
In the context of modernism, formalist critics are often thought to be interested in art rather than life, a stance exemplified in their support for abstract works that exclude the world outside. But through careful attention to early twentieth-century connoisseurship, aesthetics, art education, design, and art in colonial Nigeria and India, Rose builds an expanded account of form based on its engagement with the social world. Art and Form thus opens discussions on a range of urgent topics in art writing, from its history and the constructions of high and low culture to the idea of global modernism. Rose demonstrates the true breadth of formalism and shows how it lends a new richness to thought about art and visual culture in the early to mid-twentieth century.
Accessibly written and analytically sophisticated, Art and Form opens exciting new paths of inquiry into the meaning and lasting importance of formalism and its ties to modernism. It will be invaluable for scholars and enthusiasts of art history and visual culture.