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
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One fine clear morning in the spring of 1936, a guest staying in one of the hotels in the seaside town of St Ives, waking early and going over to the window to close the curtains against the dawn, might have observed beneath him a youngish man of striking appearance, rather like a great blond hawk, let himself out of the hotel by a side door, step on to the lawn that faced the sea, survey the view, and, carefully taking up position, unpack a particularly large groundsheet and spread it out over the damp grass; then the young man set up an easel on the groundsheet, a canvas on the easel, and, settling himself in front of the canvas, he began, with some hesitations and much darting of his large hooded eyes, to paint a picture. The canvas is virgin, the paints are unused, the brushes are fresh, the easel is brand-new; and the large groundsheet must have been bought specially for the occasion. The man on the lawn is, at this very moment, at the age of thirty-three, at work on, if not his first painting, then his first as a painter.
Who is he? What kind of picture will he paint? And what has led him at this juncture in his life to take up painting and to resolve on becoming a painter? No more natural questions to ask; and it is only when we have answers to all three that we can recognize what a complex man we are asking about.
Adrian Stokes had been born in 1902 into an upper middle-class family. From them he derived the financial independence that made his life as a writer and artist possible. The central facts of his life up till this short painting holiday in Cornwall are these. He had been at boarding-school during the First World War when his elder brother was killed. He had gone to Oxford. His father had sent him round the world. Still in his twenties he had published two books of rather immature reflections upon civilization and its future. He had spent months at a time in Italy, looking at art, and he had planned a trilogy on Renaissance art, two volumes of which had already appeared and received some critical acclaim. He was an enthusiast for the ballet and he wrote occasionally as an art critic for the Spectator. More than six years earlier he had entered into psychoanalysis with Melanie Klein. He was, by all accounts, intense, wayward and shy; he was absorbed in art and also in games; and he was possessed of looks that made a very strong and enduring impression upon both sexes. He was emerging from a period in which any attempt on his part to respond to such impressions could occasion in him only pain or confusion.
If we now ask what kind of painting this young man would have painted, I am fairly certain that the first thing to say is that it would not have been very good. I have seen his early paintings and they are not very good . They are rather stiff, a little chalky, there are failures of recession and, above all, as throughout his work, there is a total absence of drawing or dependence on drawing. 'As throughout his work': for it is a fact of major importance, and in our day something like a miracle that throughout his painting life there is a total continuity of style and ambition. The only marked changes that his work displays arise from a continuing loss of awkwardness, a steady gain in mastery, an increasing refinement of effect, a mounting saturation of the outer image in the inner condition. He painted his last painting just over thirty-six years later only thirty-six hours before he died, and the last paintings are of an overwhelming intensity.
But in mentioning ambition we must now ask: what was it that led Adrian Stokes to take up painting and seek at the moment when he was establishing himself as a young writer not only of fine sensibility and of original style but also and more to the point with something very definite to say, to become a painter? Stokes himself had an answer to the question, and this answer is a good starting point: if we trouble to understand it. Stokes said at the time, and he used to repeat it in later years, that he took up painting because there was no one else around prepared to paint the kind of painting that he thought ought to exist. Abstract from this answer the self-conscious hint of heroism or self-sacrifice - that Stokes was ready to step into the breach - and what we are being told, in effect, is that there is an intimate connection between his painting and some theory of painting. Whatever else may be true about it, the painting originated in theory.
Apart from those who hold to the view that art is theory, it is generally felt that to say of a man's art that it derives from theory is to denature it. It is to alienate the art from the man, and to say of at least one of them that it is dry and desiccated. Such a view of the matter is implausible in general, but in the case of Adrian Stokes it is the opposite of the truth. Rather it was just the connection of his art with his theory of art that helped to make his art so much a matter of himself.
We take a first step towards seeing this when we
recognize that for him there was no incompatibility, no incongruity between thinking of
his painting as in accordance with a theory and his feeling himself in his painting to be
under the direction of some marvellous image of painting. In a Note upon his work which he
wrote for the catalogue of an exhibition in 1968 but which, mysteriously, was never used,
he evokes 'a severe image called art glowing like a small and radiant flower'. 'Such an
image of fiction', he goes on, 'has haunted me since my first visit to Italy more than
forty years ago.' And we take another step towards understanding the unity of art and
theory of art in Stokes's life when we recognize that the theory of art on which his art
depended was one that in turn depended on his experience of art. For him, the theory of
art, the experience of art, came to form an indissoluble triad manifesting - to use one of
Stokes's preferred phrases and which he told me was one of the few things he had learnt
from the Oxford philosophy of his
day - 'identity-in-difference'. The three constituents of this triad had a common source, and we have just been given a clue where this is to be found.
It was in the winter of 1921 that Stokes paid his first visit to Italy, which was to be so momentous for his experience, for his theory, and so ultimately for his own practice, of art. He issued from the Mont Cenis tunnel on the morning of the last day of the old year, and he experienced entry into 'the counter-landscape' as he called it - counter, that is, to the childhood landscape of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens - as a moment of rebirth. In his most intimate book, Inside Out, Stokes has left us a description of that moment and the subsequent few hours which not only conveys in specific detail how he experienced Italy but also captures something of the way in which he experienced things generally. So to render the first impact of Italy he first associates to the experience an earlier experience from the age of eight and which he says had 'prepared' him for Italy. This was his first Latin lesson, and his learning of the first Latin word, mensa, 'table'. The word had survived in his mind in two related ways. It had survived as word-image, the image of a single inflected word, so that the genitive mensae, 'of a table', had come to signal 'the possessiveness of a simple love'. And it had survived as thing-image, the image of a scrubbed, sturdy kitchen-table, made of deal, later (that is, as the boy grew into the young man) as the proper setting for 'the family mid-day meal under a fig-tree, with a fiasco of wine on the table, olives, a cheese and bread'. That is the association, and here is the description:
As the train came out of the Mont Cenis tunnel, the sun shone, the sky was a deep, deep, bold blue. I had half-forgotten about my table for more than ten years. At once I saw it everywhere, on either side of the train, purple earth, terraces of vine and olive, bright rectangular houses free of atmosphere, of the passage of time, of impediment, of all the qualities which steep and massive roofs connote in the north. The hills belonged to man in this his moment. The two thousand years of Virgilian past that carved and habituated the hillsides, did not oppress: they were gathered in the present aspect. At the stations before Turin, the pure note of the guard's horn but sustained and reinforced the process by which time was here laid out as ever-present space.
Many of these epithets will recur.
Over the next seven or eight years - until, indeed, his analysis with Mrs. Klein kept him in England for the greater part of the year - Stokes came back to Italy many, many times, sometimes staying for long periods. We find him travelling with the Sitwells,'the first to open my eyes'; taking offence at Berenson parading for the benefit of a rich, bored woman the treasures of Rimini; playing tennis with Ezra Pound at Rapallo, introduced to him by the resident tennis coach as someone who 'was a has-been'; but mostly, most often, alone. He became addicted to Italian sounds, to Italian smells, to certain composite experiences of light falling and of the stone on which it fell, and above all to a particular kind of art which he came to isolate from everything else he saw. A bit disingenuously perhaps, he did not claim that it was superior to other forms of art. It was different, and for the values he found in it he favoured such terms as 'direct', 'tense', - 'no other creative power is so direct and tense' he wrote - and also the term 'urgent' and the term 'exuberant' used rather specially. He found this kind of art in small towns and in ordinary houses as well as in the great villes d'art: indeed least of all in Florence, by which he was 'most bitterly disappointed'. He found it in the work of Agostino di Duccio, Alberti, Piero della Francesca, Francesco di Giorgio, Luciano Laurana, and, on and off, Donatello and Verrocchio. He found it supremely in three extraordinary expressions of Renaissance culture: the Tempio Malatestiano at Rimini, the Ducal Palace of Urbino, and the city of Venice, 'city of stone and water', perceived and apprehended as a unitary work of art. And for this particular kind of art Stokes coined a name by a system engagingly eccentric. He took the normal Italian word for the fifteenth century, the quattrocento, and cut it in two. His preferred art was 'Quattro Cento', and the first of the two books of his projected trilogy he called The Quattro Cento. It appeared in 1932 and it had a sequel in 1934: Stones of Rimini - an echo, of course, of Ruskin on Venice. The third volume never appeared, and the idea of the trilogy lapsed.
In The Quattro Cento Stokes identifies the art he is concerned with by eliciting certain characteristics. Let us look at them one by one.
The first characteristic Stokes calls love of stone: where 'love of ' stone is explicitly contrasted with mere 'attention to' stone.The lover of stone or (a nice phrase) the 'stone-struck' artist is one who has such a powerful relationship with the stone that the stone is for him animate. He does not, like Michelangelo, have to 'force' the stone to life. It lives for him, and this sense of it as something alive means that he is attuned to its potential. He is attuned to its potential as means or medium, and he loses no opportunity of displaying this. But he is also attuned to its potential as content, in that fantasies, which are of course fundamentally his, he finds it natural to ascribe to the stone itself. The stone is treated as a repository of contents, of figures, of things stirring within it, and the Quattro Cento artist typically sees it as his task to summon the stone to 'realize its own life'. An art born out of this love of stone exhibits what Stokes calls 'stone-blossom', with which he goes on to associate another feature, 'incrustation'. Stone-blossom and incrustation aren't exactly the same: for, whereas stone-blossom grows out of the work, incrustation has been fetched to it from outside. But they have in common the negative property that (as he puts it) 'they never give an effect of having been put there, just like that'. More importantly, they have in common the positive property of being 'in a tense communion with the plane' which shows them off.
The second characteristic is called 'mass' or 'mass-effect', again introduced through a contrast: this time at once with massiveness or the 'scenic' effect loved by Roman or Baroque architects and with any highly linear treatment of space such as we find in Brunelleschi, one of the villains of the piece. The effect of mass is one that is directly visual: it makes no appeal, or no original appeal, to touch or to tactile memory, it is directed solely to the 'quickness of the eye'. A building that exhibits mass does not require time to communicate itself, nor is it to be seen as an accumulation of unit upon unit. Such buildings are said to resemble in their immediacy the face, the wide face, the open face, of a rose. In an elaborately wrought early essay entitled 'Pisanello', rescued for the recent collected edition and which incidentally carries no reference to the painter of that name, Stokes says that any architecture that is 'even vaguely Quattro Cento in spirit' refutes Pater's dictum that all art aspires to the condition of music, and just what Stokes means is that such art has nothing to do with time, nothing to do with rhythm, nothing to do with process. It discloses itself instantaneously.
The third characteristic is perspective: again the 'love' of perspective, not the mere 'use' of perspective in which the un-Quattro Cento Florentines were adept. And if at first perspective seems out of place in this list, this is because we naturally think of perspective as primarily a representational aid, whereas Stokes conceives of it more as a way of neutralizing the side-effects of representation. For any attempt to render space on the flat (as in representational painting) or deep space in shallow space (as in representational relief) readily lends itself to a powerful attack on the surface. Depth may be gouged out, and, once this attack on the stone has been launched, then all the prettifying attempts to cover up the damage, to impart 'finish' (one of Stokes's pejorative words, much applied to Ghiberti), are in vain; for the tension of the plane has been destroyed. It is here that perspective - love of perspective - comes in, for it offers a new order to contain the dangers implicit in spatial representation. If the original single plane has to be given up, an equivalence is restored in the multi-planed picture of relief, where all the various gradations observe degree or progression.
The final characteristic in my list is the hardest to elucidate. Stokes's word is 'emblematic' and his uses of the word range from the most specific, the most literal - so the lily is Florence's emblem, the Tempio is encrusted with the emblems of Sigismondo and Isotta - to a highly generalized use in which the emblematic just is art. But in the most creative use, 'emblem' seems to gather together the sense of objectification of the inner, the revelation of something in the outer world that realizes or makes concrete a subjective state, and also the sense of something that can be looked at meaningfully only if it is seen as the product of work or of engagement with the material. The match between the inner and the outer has not been borrowed from a code or preconception. It has been 'thrown out', there is 'exuberance'. At the time of writing The Quattro Cento Stokes had no way of unifying these characteristics: he had identified no underlying mode of activity from which they derived. Then, by the time he came to write Stones of Rimini he had found one. He found it in the phenomenon of carving: taking the term 'carving' out of the contrast, enshrined in traditional art-theory, between carving and modelling.
Interestingly, in a couple of places in The Quattro Cento, Stokes had already taken up his carving-modelling antithesis, but he could not see that it gave him the distinction he needed, and this was because he conceived no way of taking the distinction except literally: as referring to actual techniques of art. So he thought it a definitive objection to the antithesis, for his purposes, that some pure Quattro Cento work, such as Donatello's reliefs on the base of 'Judith', were in bronze, and therefore literally modeled, whereas the way in which some northern Italian sculptors characteristically tend to hew stone, or literally carve, was quite un-Quattro Cento. However, a few years later Stokes had evolved a more metaphorical way of making the distinction, freed direct reference to technique, in which it could nevertheless be used, both with precision and with perspicuity, to pick out two profoundly different ways or modes of working with material - what Stokes called 'the two main aspects of labour' - and these cohered with the difference between what was and what was not Quattro Cento in Renaissance sculpture and architecture. I quote from Stones of Rimini a passage repeated in Colour and Form:
Whatever its plastic value, a figure carved in stone is fine carving when one feels that not the figure, but the stone through the medium of the figure, has come to life. Plastic conception, on the other hand, is uppermost when the material with which, or from which, a figure has been made appears no more than as so much suitable stuff for this creation.
And Stokes goes on to characterize the impression that a work of carving - still in the centre of his attention - is calculated to make on the spectator. It confronts him with a carefully modulated, carefully graded, progression of unemphatic forms: recalling - and I quote - 'a panorama contemplated in an equal light by which objects of different dimensions and textures, of different beauty and of different emotional appeal, whatever their distance, are seen with more or less the same distinctness, so that one senses the uniform dominion of an uninterrupted space.' And the word here that might seem the most expendable is the most carefully chosen: 'panorama'. For it is a point to which Stokes often returned that the visual values exemplified in works of carving are just those to be found in a good landscape - that is, a southern or Mediterranean landscape - just at the hour at which the sun has gone down after a hot day. 'Things stand'.
And then in Colour and Form, which appeared in 1937, but represented several years of thought and of discussion mainly with Adrian Kent, his first mentor in painting and who had been with him on the painting holiday to St Ives, Stokes extended the concept of carving from its original home into the domain of painting - further sign of how effectively the concept had been freed,within his mind, from its literal or purely technical sense. Piero, it is true, had been there from the beginning as a Quattro Cento artist, but Stokes now felt able to identify, characteristic by characteristic, a whole kind of painting which systematically exhibited the essential quality or qualities he had thus far found largely in the work of fifteenth-century sculptors and architects. Colour and Form contains much from which any serious painter can learn, but I must pass over this detail and concentrate on the characteristics.
Fundamentally a kind of painting in which the carving conception is realized is one in which vitality (a crucial notion) is attributed to the surface of the canvas and the painter dedicates himself to its preservation - and Stokes draws an explicit parallel between this vitality with which the canvas is endowed and the potential life that (as we have seen) the true carver attributes to the stone and then tries to reveal. But vitality can be preserved only if colour determines form, or colour serves as 'a principle of creation'. But not just any use of colour to determine form will serve as the analogue to carving, and the remaining characteristics fix the relevant use. In the first place, colour must be used so as to provide a total organization of the forms that a picture contains. It must not be used simply to balance or offset adjacent forms. Stokes talks of chromatic relations as 'reversible', by which he means that the terms to such a relation must be mutually enhanced, and one may not act as foil to the other. For the realization of this Stokes advocates the use of near-complementary colours. Secondly, colour must be used so as to suggest that each form has its own inner light. This effect Stokes calls luminosity, and he contrasts it with the use of colour to represent reflected light or a source of illumination or atmosphere. And, finally, the total organization of colour must reveal itself all at once or 'in a fraction of a second'. Forms must not be 'groped for', and Vasari's dictum that a painting of Giorgione could be seized in 'una sola occhiata' is treated as pure praise. This chromatic immediacy of forms is, of course, the analogue to mass in architecture or relief, and it is this that ensures painting a visual - not an exclusively but a primarily visual - character.
With these characteristics fixed Stokes was able to construct the proper carving tradition in painting, which could now transcend the frontiers of chronology as well as of art-form. After Piero came Giorgione, Bruegel, Chardin and Cezanne. Later he added the names of Georges de la Tour, Vermeer and Picasso.
Lists are dangerous things. The distinction crucial to Stokes's theory - of which he was to write in 1964 that it was 'the one insight by which I have worked for nearly forty years' - was based unambiguously on his experience of art. But an unscrupulous reader might misuse the distinction to make nonsense of that experience: converting the history of art into an enormous game with the good carvers against the bad modellers. Two developments in Stokes's thought - starting at different moments, progressing at different rates - conspire to make such idiocy impossible. The first to evince itself, and observable in Stones of Rimini, is that the two main aspects of labour, isolatable in principle, are not thought to occur unaccompanied: in any work of art, certainly in any great work, both are to be found though with one dominant. And the second development is that though initially the carving mode is (Stokes's protestations apart) perceived as the mode, gradually modelling gains in importance and stature. In The Quattro Cento non-Quattro Cento art is a mixed bag ranging from the Baroque or the monumental to what is designated 'the mouse-like preciosity' of Mine da Fiesole, but the introduction of the concept of modelling in Stones of Rimini at once stabilizes its extension and gives it a unity. Then with unity it acquires value: a unique and intrinsic value of its own. But to master this we need to turn to another theme in Stokes's evolution as critic and painter, and one of major significance.
It was in 1921 that Stokes first visited Italy but not till 1929, with the publication in the Criterion of some instalments of his work on Rimini, achieved through the mediation of Pound with the editor, T. S. Eliot, that his writing on Italian art appeared in print. It was in 1929 that Stokes entered psycho-analysis with Melanie Klein, but we have to wait until 1947 and the publication of Inside Out for the first unambiguous influence of this upon his writing.And then the influence manifests itself in the comparatively limited vein of the semi-autobiography and with no great exegesis.
Inside Out and its companion volume of 1951, Smooth and Rough, are remarkable works, mingling art and childhood, but they in no way prepare us for the ambitious project that Stokes was to take on in a series of six slim volumes that issued from the Tavistock Press between 1955 and 1967. In order of appearance they were Michelangelo, Greek Culture and the Ego, Three Essays on the Painting of Our Time, Painting and the Inner World, The Invitation in Art, and Reflections on the Nude. These books undertook, both in general and in many points of art-historical detail, to correlate the two modes or processes, the two 'main aspects of labour', which Stokes had come to think of as all-important within the making of art, with the two psychic attitudes or 'positions', the two fundamental kinds of relationship that psycho-analytic theory - more specifically psycho-analytic theory as further elaborated by Mrs. Klein and her colleagues - had come to think of as all-important within the development of the individual. The two psychic attitudes were one in which relations to part-objects, or objects not felt to be wholly independent of the individual, dominate, and another in which relations to whole-objects, or objects experienced as self-sufficient and separate, are preponderant. Stokes's project was to connect the modelling mode with dominance of part-object relationships and the carving mode with the preponderance of whole-object relationships. Now, within the part of psycho-analytic theory to which Stokes appealed, the two psychic attitudes initially belong to a developmental or historical account, in that in the first few months of life the infant is thought to be capable only of part-object relations and it is only later that he graduates to whole-object relations. Nevertheless the theory holds that at any later stage in life the two kinds of relationship are found conjointly and indeed good whole-object relations are possible only on the secure foundations of good part-object relations. And this, of course, fits in very well with Stokes's ever-growing awareness that the carving mode and the modelling mode are never found in isolation.
There are readers of Stokes who regret the project of the Tavistock books. They wish that he had stuck to his earlier manner. One supporter whom Stokes lost was Kenneth Clark, who had been an early enthusiastic reviewer. But the introduction of the psychological was already anticipated in The Quattro Cento where he had written:
Of course in the long run a more psychological approach is not at variance with a more purely aesthetic approach. On the contrary, the former should be indispensable to the latter, and vice versa.
By 'aestheticism' here Stokes had in mind the formalism to which criticism resorted in its reaction against Ruskinian criticism, and Stokes, admirer though he was of Ruskin, was certainly not disposed to resume that tradition. What psycho-analysis provided him with, then, was a way of correcting a balance that he long thought had gone wrong. But he was prepared to wait until he felt that he had properly absorbed the lessons of psycho-analysis through his own analysis, his wide reading in the subject, and the many contacts he maintained with distinguished analysts.
To bring the project of the Tavistock books into better focus we must look in a little more detail at the psychological implications of the two kinds of relationship, and probably the clearest way of doing that is to look at the two attitudes or positions chronologically or as they unfold in infantile development.
So. Initially the infant has not the power, the cognitive capacity, to take in the existence of whole-objects: that is, objects extending in space and in time beyond the sensory moment. It finds in the world only part-objects, or objects as immediate experience presents them, and these objects it finds either satisfying - say, the breast that feeds it - or frustrating - say, the nipple it is denied. But the infant not only experiences the world, it also has its own feelings of love and of destructiveness, and these feelings are not only intense in themselves but they gain a further intensity through being associated with the infant's earliest bodily processes and products: looking, sucking, feeding, biting, urinating, defecating. And these bodily activities also provide the underpinning - in that they provide the representations in fantasy or reverie - of a continuing psychic activity in which the infant engages: introjection, projection, taking, casting out. The infant fantasizes that it swallows the good objects around it, but also some of the bad; then it fantasizes that it defecates the bad into the world, and with the bad sometimes the good. And the result of this taking in, casting out, is twofold: the lurid character of the external world is constantly intensified, and an inner world is built up within the infant's mind which is at least as exaggerated as the external world from which it is derived. These two worlds, the outer and the inner world, now teem with impossibly good, impossibly bad, objects, and the infant endeavours to protect one and to save himself from the other with the crude resources of his mind. He idealizes the precarious good objects and bathes them in an unnatural radiance; he defends himself against the frightening bad objects by splitting, which means a further fragmentation of the world as he experiences it, or by denial, by the refusal to face badness either outside or inside itself. And then, from time to time, outer world and inner world collude to offer him an experience that remains the prototype of all intense happiness: the oceanic feeling sensed at the breast.
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.
And now we have in a rough form the constituents of the new theory of modelling. For if the envelopment factor can symbolize the oceanic feeling, the illimitable bliss, then the contrasted or stressed elements whether these are left starkly adjacent - as, say, in the paintings of middle Turner - or whether they are some what omnipotently gestured together - as, say, by the brush-stroke in some great Monets - symbolize the part-objects themselves in so far as they are not fully repaired. For there is an insistence in Stokes on the ultimate strength of this reparative drive in any great creative artist, and Stokes has left us descriptions both of late Turner and of late Monet, showing how the envelopment is still powerful but the fragmented elements are now harmonized by some exploitation of touch or texture. I quote from the Turner essay:
In the great last period, not only is the world washed clean by light, but humidity is sucked from water, the core of fire from flame, leaving an iridescence through which we witness an object's ceremonious identity: whereupon space and light envelop them and us, cement the world under the aegis of a boat at dawn between Cumaean headlands, or a yacht that gains the coast.
Stokes's application of psycho-analysis to art was very much his own. But what was also very much his own was the way in which he drew certain very broad consequences from this application.These consequences put together formed what might be thought of as a sociology of art: sketchier than any sociologist would recognize, but also more profound.
The first consequence concerns the deep roots of art in life. Art is at least as deeply rooted in life as to make that stock-in-trade of so much academic aesthetics, the distinctively aesthetic emotion, a highly suspect entity. The continuities between art and life are a major theme in Stokes's work, and they are asserted in two crucial contexts. Neither the kind of activity that generates art, nor the kind of perception that art generates, is autonomous. On the one hand, the creation of art is linked with other, less reputed ways of working with or upon material. The fine arts, Stokes liked to say, are rooted in the handicrafts, and the handicrafts in turn derive from the other forms of manual labour society contains. On the other hand, the perception of art is grounded in the visual experience of the environment. Stokes loved this theme too, and he distilled it into the saying that architecture is the mother of the arts. He wrote, 'There is a sense in which the crux of art can be recognized in a completely satisfying progression from a cobbled thoroughfare to the smooth base of a building that grows upward from it: a sense in which graphic art (even the greatest) is the prolonging, or the decoration, of the simplest architectural effect.' And in Michelangelo he wrote, 'The ideal way to experience painting in Italy is first to examine olive terraces, then fine streets of the plain houses, before entering a gallery.
And from this there follows, as the next consequence, the immense importance of the environment, the built environment of the town and of the traditional countryside, not just for art but also for life itself. Nor is it merely - if 'merely' is the word - that we rely upon an integrated environment - 'the realm of aperture and projection, wall and void, of rough and smooth, the constant theme of architectural effect', as he calls it - to sustain the projection of good ego-states. But a fragmented environment, offering us only shock, glitter, chaos, ugliness, encourages part-object fantasies of an aggressive and crudely sexualized kind. In this sense a good environment is not a luxury, it is a necessity. 'I asked my neighbour at the Oval Cricket-Ground where a gasometer obtrudes why it was ugly' is how an essay opens: and, though it is evident that Stokes did not wait for an answer, he speculates that the answer he himself went on to give would not have been incomprehensible to his neighbour; just unwelcome. He would have shrugged it off as the product of a dirty mind.
The third consequence neatly turns the argument back on itself. Let us suppose that we lack a stable architectural setting (and in this connection Stokes thought that the modern movement only finished off what the late Victorians and Edwardians had begun). So the stability of life is threatened: and then the vitality of art is threatened. But the threat to art can be treated by art as a challenge: a challenge to provide those very values upon whose provision it has historically relied. Now Stokes used this thought skilfully and sensitively to account for certain contemporary manifestations of art. The best of abstract art, which Stokes fervently admired, filled a need. With its vast incantatory allure, it sets out to provide what he called 'the meaning that our streets refuse to us'. Interestingly, though, Stokes did not see this as the only solution. In his own work, which involved a massive commitment to the values of carving, with no more than the minimal use of envelopment, Stokes replied to the modern challenge in another more indirect way. It did not worry him that he was virtually alone in this.
Adrian Stokes was also a very close friend of mine, and it is of him as a friend that I should like to write in conclusion. I first met Adrian in 1958 and it was at Burlington House at a winter exhibition entitled 'The Age of Louis XIV'. My mood' at the time was not good, and coming out of the tea-room with him I looked avidly at the tall canvases of Georges de la Tour which he particularly admired. Indeed he particularly admired their tallness.
I had caught sight of Adrian a few months before at a famous occasion in the Slade when the art-historian Meyer Schapiro talked to a largely ignorant audience about the American painters of the forties and fifties. The lecture, which had influence on the development of local painting, was a dazzling performance, but I had some curiosity left over for the identity of a most remarkable-looking man sitting one row behind me and talking in a soft, restrained voice, of a kind that came and went and carried well, about Alberti. In his mid-fifties Adrian looked boyish with a head of rather vivid fair hair, slightly Venetian, which he ran his fingers through a lot, and I noticed that the skin of his face, which was evidently very delicate, was totally covered by a very fine criss-cross of lines. As though this wasn't striking enough, the pattern on his face was taken up in the pattern of his check shirt and his tweed suit, from which there billowed out - always - a large, slightly faded, silk handkerchief. He looked most like a great beaked bird: fierce in repose, but on the verge of tears when he smiled. He used to say that he looked like Mr. Punch, which was not very accurate, but it was also how he described Turner.
We met, then, a little later. At about this time I was asked to review Greek Culture and the Ego, and from this I came to know Mrs. Klein: I remember a meeting at her house, as well as at each of ours. Early on we went to Dulwich together to see the pictures. Amusingly enough, there had been a certain background to our meeting. As a young man Adrian had been a passionate admirer of the Russian ballet, so that when in 1929 the remarkable Serge Diaghilev died, it seemed to Adrian, as to many at the time, that without this man of hypnotic genius the ballet would wither away. So Adrian set out to discover the name of Diaghilev's impresario in London and then wrote to him, saying that he was a young man devoted to the ballet, with a capital of so many thousand pounds, and that he wanted to make over this capital so that the ballet could survive. How should he make out the cheque? There are two versions of what happened next. One is that there was no reply; the other is that Adrian received a letter, saying 'This is not what a young man does'. Either way round the upshot was the same, and, if the detail interests me, it is because it was my father to whom Adrian had written. If my father was in some circumstances good at encouraging the young, he was also, as I can attest, good at discouraging them. He drew the line, I believe,when he suspected impracticality or fervour. Anyhow Adrian kept his money, and in later years he told me he thought of my father with gratitude and once asked to see a photograph of him, which I could not find. I occasionally suspected that Adrian felt he owed this invisible benefactor more than just the money on which he lived as a writer and an artist. He felt that he also owed him the opportunity of looking after his money, and this (if I am right) is something he was particularly grateful for because it allowed him an experience which otherwise - to the delight of his friends, no doubt, but ultimately to his own inward chagrin - often eluded him: the sense of being altogether grown up.
We got to know each other very well only after 1962 - about the time I began my own analysis. The Stokes's house in Church Row, Hampstead, an early eighteenth-century house - 'the houses in the street are not unpleasant', he wrote in his first letter tome - was on what we called 'the analytic route', and I would call in probably once, sometimes twice, a week. The meetings had a pattern. Adrian would come downstairs, shuffling a little in his slippers, holding his pipe a few inches out of his mouth, just above his right shoulder and parallel to the ground, adjusting his silk handkerchief. There would be words of welcome, some words of apology, some reflections on the last meeting, 'I have been thinking ..... ' he would begin. All very hesitant at first. We would be upstairs by now. He would play with a large box of matches, he would stare up at the ceiling, he would - as on the hotel lawn in St Ives many mornings before - try out a number of positions until, getting into one that no one else would have stayed in for a moment, he settled for it: his back largely towards me, a cat across his knees, sitting bolt upright, looking out of the window over St John's Wood and the valley of the Thames - and then the thoughts flowed. Next morning a letter or postcard would arrive. It would continue the conversation, apologize for too emphatic an assertion, conclude probably on a tangential or enigmatic thought. In a postcard, tantalizingly dated 'Tuesday afternoon', I find the sentence: 'I shall discipline and keep myself in trim in wondering for what simple reason Palestrina avoided concerning himself with a tone poem on the plangent fountains of Rome.' Once the conversation must have been peculiarly intimate, and he wrote by the next post: 'If talking to me about yourself is a mistake, there is a great deal else for us to talk about.' At dinner, sitting at the head of a scrubbed table, presiding over many pots with different vegetables, several bottles with different wines, perhaps one of some grandeur, shirt open at the neck, blinking as though a light had suddenly been turned on, he was invariably high-spirited. He resembled a boy taken out to the theatre and supper afterwards. He talked about art, exhibitions and friends; he liked childish jokes and nicknames particularly. He seldom referred to the past. Laughter excited him. I remember one evening taking a great friend of mine, John Richardson, to dinner at Church Row and, the conversation turning to an art critic who had once been an avid ballroom dancer, John got up and went through all the palais dances of the twenties and the thirties. Often afterwards Adrian would say, 'I did like "Shuffle Off to Buffalo" ', and tears would return to his eyes until the silk handkerchief had wiped them away. Generally, he developed a most remarkable way of half-listening to someone which also involved the most total concentration upon the person that I have ever observed in any human being. And he could be firm. Once when I was dining alone with Adrian and an old friend of his who was a distinguished historian of architecture - Ann must have been away - the friend made some idiotic remarks about psycho-analysis. Adrian waited until we had all had one cup of coffee and then he turned to his guest and said, 'It was very kind of you to come', and in a minute had manoeuvred him to the front door and out into the wintry street. It was not yet half past nine. Once he said to Stuart Hampshire, talking about someone else, his voice dropping to a whisper, 'Don't you find it is the gentlest people who can sometimes be the most harsh?'. He was full of irony, and he spoke and wrote in a language that he seemed to have reinvented.
Adrian saw a great deal of art. He looked very slowly, and thought nothing of spending an hour or two in a small dealer's exhibition. He wrote to friends, or friends of friends, who were painters about their work. He did not take the dispute between abstraction and figuration seriously, and all he required was that the work should have what he referred to in an early review as 'visual relevance', by which he meant the power to support some image of the human body and therefore of the human psyche. He excluded only work that issued from (I quote) 'the half-baked, ignorant and journalese theory of Surrealism'. He loved certain music: Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, Mozart, Berlioz, Schubert. Beethoven was taboo. Two great pleasures in his last years were the revival of 'Don Pasquale' at Covent Garden and the great exhibition of Islamic carpets at the Hayward Gallery, organized by his friend, David Sylvester. He thought that the decorative was totally under-prized in our culture. He could never see enough tennis or cricket.
After he had finished the last of
the Tavistock books, which appeared in 1967, he wrote a lot of poetry. He wrote it
continually in the interstices of painting. He aimed at the same connections in his poems
as in his prose and in his paintings. He also revealed more of himself in his poetry,
sometimes unfairly to the reader. His best poem, I would say, takes for its title the word
that was the most savoured, the most potent, in his vocabulary: 'Home'.
Favouring regardless people
Schubert's last sonatas reign.
He wrote a remarkable fable, which Karl Miller insisted on printing in The Listener.
In 1971 he fell ill and had a serious operation. The next year, contrary to expectations, the cancer returned. Throughout the autumn he knew he was dying. We dined with him on his birthday. He said to me 'I never liked birthdays', and added with a laugh 'But never again'. He gave a party to say goodbye to his friends. It was as unlike what one might imagine such an occasion to be as he was unlike other people. It was a celebration. That autumn I had brought him back from Kandahar some beads made of green travertine, because I knew how much travertine meant to him. I got a letter of thanks, written in a strange floating handwriting but in which the magical word appeared several times in sentences otherwise bereft of sense. And all the while he went on painting: painting with failing vision, failing muscular control, his thoughts sometimes wandering but with a fantastic physical intensity probably the greater for his resignation. The last painting that he painted was the last he would have been capable of painting. Ann, who had helped him put up the canvas, hold the brush and dip it in the paint, helped him to bed. He died, resting from the effort. From that moment his fame began to spread.
[This essay is a version of the 4th William Townsend Memorial Lecture, originally delivered by Richard Wollheim at the Slade, University College, London.]
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