English art critic, associated with formalism and the Bloomsbury Group
Arthur Clive Heward Bell (16 September 1881 – 17 September 1964) was an English art critic, associated with formalism and the Bloomsbury Group. He developed the art theory known as significant form.
The forms of art are inexhaustible; but all lead by the same road of aesthetic emotion to the same world of aesthetic ecstasy.
What quality is shared by all objects that provoke our aesthetic emotions? Only one answer seems possible— significant form. In each, lines and colors combined in a particular way; certain forms and relations of forms, stir our aesthetic emotions. These relations and combinations of lines and colors, these aesthetically moving forms, I call ‘Significant Form’; and ‘Significant Form’ is the one quality common to all works of visual art.
A rose is the visible result of an infinitude of complicated goings on in the bosom of the earth and in the air above, and similarly a work of art is the product of strange activities in the human mind.
Only reason can convince us of those three fundamental truths without a recognition of which there can be no effective liberty: that what we believe is not necessarily true; that what we like is not necessarily good; and that all questions are open.
We have no other means of recognising a work of art than our feeling for it.
Civilized people can talk about anything. For them no subject is taboo.... In civilized societies there will be no intellectual bogeys at sight of which great grownup babies are expected to hide their eyes.
The representative element in a work of art may or may not be harmful, but it is always irrelevant. For to appreciate a work of art, we must bring with us nothing from life, no knowledge of its affairs and ideas, no familiarity with its emotions.
It is the mark of great art that its appeal is universal and eternal.
Art and religion are, then, two roads by which men escape from circumstance to ecstacy.
It is the mark of great art that its appeal is universal and eternal.............. Great art remains stable and unobscure because the feelings that it awakens are independent of time and place, because its kingdom is not of this world. To those who have and hold a sense of the significance of form what does it matter whether the forms that move them were created in Paris the day before yesterday or in Babylon fifty centuries ago? The forms of art are inexhaustible; but all lead by the same road of aesthetic emotion to the same world of aesthetic ecstasy.
It is not by his mixing and choosing, but by the shapes of his colors, and the combination of those shapes, that we recognize the colorist. Color becomes significant only when it becomes form.
Let the artist have just enough to eat, and the tools of this trade: ask nothing of him. Materially make the life of the artist sufficiently miserable to be unattractive, and no-one will take to art save those in whom the divine daemon is absolute.
The starting-point for all systems of aesthetics must be the personal experience of a peculiar emotion. The objects that provoke this emotion we call works of art.
Comfort came in with the middle classes.
Art and relligion are not professions: they are not occupations for which men can be paid. The artist and the saint do what they have to do, not to make a living, but in obedience to some mysterious necessity. They do not product to live - they live to produce.
Art and Religion are, then, two roads by which men escape from circumstance to ecstasy. Between aesthetic and religious rapture there is a family alliance. Art and Religion are means to similar states of mind.
It would follow that 'significant form' was form behind which we catch a sense of ultimate reality.
I will try to account for the degree of my aesthetic emotion. That, I conceive, is the function of the critic.
Genius worship is the inevitable sign of an uncreative age.
Detail is the heart of realism, and the fatty degeneration of art.
Do not mistake a crowd of big wage earners for the leisure class.
Cezanne is the Christopher Columbus of a new continent of form.
All sensitive people agree that there is a peculiar emotion provoked by works of art.
There must be some one quality without which a work of art cannot exist; possessing which, in the least degree, no work is altogether worthless.
We all agree now - by 'we' I mean intelligent people under sixty - that a work of art is like a rose. A rose is not beautiful because it is like something else. Neither is a work of art. Roses and works of art are beautiful in themselves.