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
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.