A D R I A N S T O K E S
M A I N I N T R O D U C T I O N - Richard Wollheim
By the age of eight or nine months, the infant acquires the power to recognize and reidentify whole objects - supremely, the mother as an entire and enduring person - and the result of this cognitive triumph is a further source of anxiety but of a different type; for now anxiety is felt not in the face of another's destructiveness but in the recognition of its own. For such a recognition is forced in on it when it appreciates that, for instance, the bad breast that it has attacked either in reality or in fantasy is the same as, and belongs to the same person as, the good breast at which it has experienced bliss. The reaction to this recognition is depression, and the appropriate way out of this depression - appropriate, that is to say, for future development - lies in the toleration of depression and the urge to restore and make reparation to the injured figure. Alternatively the infant's awareness of its own destructiveness may for various reasons lead it to regress to the earlier phase of part-object relationship with aggression once again denied, the old anxieties re-activated, and the periodic moments of manic relief. If, however, the infant can accept the depression it can find a sense of security which allays anxiety but without recourse to the cruder defences.
In correlating the two kinds of relationship with the two kinds of art, Stokes was centrally concerned to show how each kind of art was adapted to symbolize the benign aspect of the relationship it mirrors, or its characteristic satisfactions. But he was also to insist that the darker aspect of the relationship was not glossed over. So the modelling mode celebrates the oceanic feeling but it also finds a place for the splitting and the attacks that accompany it. The carving mode celebrates the self-sufficiency of the intact object, but it finds a place for the depression, for the ache of reparation, that are its accompaniments.
Now the peculiar suitability of the carving mode to express what Stokes calls 'the joyful recognition of self-sufficient objects' should not be hard to see. It depends on qualities rehearsed: the love of material, the attention to texture and reciprocity of form, the use of inner light, the even progression of surfaces. It is the suitability of modelling to the part-object relationship that presents more difficulty, yet perception of it is crucial to an understanding of the new value, the unique and intrinsic value, that Stokes came to assign to modelling.I have emphasized already the dependence of Stokes's theory of art upon his experience of it, and this would be an appropriate moment to stress the point that the re-evaluation of modelling came out of an intense and prolonged study of certain great works,which for him exemplified the dominance of modelling. The artists concerned were principally Michelangelo, Turner and Monet; later, and somewhat more reluctantly, Rembrandt. From their works Stokes not only derived a new assessment to be placed upon modelling, but he developed a profounder sense of how deeply the two modes are implicated from the beginning.
Central to the new theory of modelling is an aspect that Stokes variously called 'pull', the 'envelopment factor', the 'incantatory process', and, canonically, 'the invitation in art'. We are all accustomed to recognize, Stokes argued, the capacity that pictures with a certain subject-matter have to take us out of ourselves, to pull us into them. He cited idylls, fetes champetres, depictions of reverie or the elements unleashed. The effect that he was talking about, the 'wider incantation', was of this same kind, but it did not depend on subject-matter. The effect depended on the picture's form. And Stokes's retrieval of modelling got a lot of extra power from what he found himself able to say about how form can facilitate this effect. For it was his insight that the enveloping effect is likely to be strongest, the pull most effective, just when the form itself is least integrated, when there is most attack on the surface, heaviest emphasis on depth, greatest irregularity of stress, harshest contrasts of illumination, or any representation of movement: or - and it was another insight of Stokes to perceive this equivalence - when the different elements remain unlinked but are then overridden by some compulsive, summary reconciliation either of composition or of technique. In this latter kind of case 'singleness' is achieved, where singleness is contrasted with the integration of the great masterpieces of carving.