As an art critic Clive Bell has always suffered in comparison with Roger Fry. He was not a painter and claimed not to analyse pictures so much as to appreciate them. Fry’s greater originality is evidenced in the ideas that Bell begged, borrowed, and sometimes (to Fry’s irritation) stole from him. Bell may, indeed, be the least liked member of Bloomsbury. His friends and relatives acknowledged his generosity, charm, and vitality; he was second to none in Bloomsbury in his capacity for admiration and enjoyment, and Desmond MacCarthy thought it ‘impossible to overestimate the part played by him in the creation of Bloomsbury’ (BGII, p. 70). But Bell has been found wanting by biographers and critics of the Group — as a husband, a father, and especially a brother-in-law. It is undeniable that he was a wealthy snob, hedonist, and womaniser, a racist and an anti-Semite (but not a homophobe), who changed from a liberal socialist and pacifist into a reactionary appeaser. Bell’s reputation has led to his being underestimated in the history of Bloomsbury; there is no collected edition of his works or his lively correspondence. Yet despite Fry’s greater achievements as a critic, nothing he wrote has had as wide an influence as Bell’s book on art.
KeywordsSignificant Form Literary History Ultimate Reality Metaphysical Hypothesis Aesthetic Attitude
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