Impressionism and Post Impressionism: The Collaboration of Bloomsbury
Roger Fry's essay "Impressionism" reminded me over and over again that Fry was not a writer, but an artist. His punctuation and word choice is that of a very intelligent man who found his calling, not in authorship, but in artistic expression and critique. His essay is very personal, citing not only widely known and iconic artists like Monet, Pissarro, Manet, and Sisley, but including his own personal favorite "typical representative of the French genius" (263), Degas. Fry's confidence in his opinion is also quite apparent in this essay where he notes that while Degas objected to being classified as an Impressionist, he (Fry) nonetheless will place him directly in this category. Though well informed and thought out, Fry's essay would have benefited greatly from the inclusion of several of Degas's actual paintings. The addition of these visual stimuli would have highlighted Fry's descriptions and conclusions, and given the reader a more broad understanding of Fry's claims.
In Desmond MacCarthy's essay "The Post-Impressionists," he clearly and concisely states the overall tenets of Impressionism as being "interested in analyzing the play of light and shadow into a multiplicity of distinct colours; they refined upon what was already illusive in nature." (98) This line seems to encompass all the themes Roger Fry discussed in "Impressionism." In the introduction paragraph the author notes that MacCarthy was very close to Robert Fry, leading me to believe that this concise statement was no accident. I would be very comfortable venturing a guess that these two essays were written to be read consecutively. In many ways MacCarthy expounds on Fry's points and Impressionism, offering a great deal of information for the sole purpose of expanding Fry's arguments and teachings. MacCarthy is also very clear about the overall goal of the Post-Impressionists who "were not concerned with recording impressions of colour or light. They were interested in the discoveries of the Impressionists only so far as these discoveries helped them to express emotions which the objects themselves evoked" (98). I truly enjoyed reading MacCarthy's essay. His clear, concise, and well informed writing style gripped my attention from beginning to end.
At first glace author Clive Bell seems to dismiss all of Roger Fry and Desmond MacCarthy's musings. In his essay "The Artistic Problem," he metaphorically describes his opinion using the imagery of a rose, which he says "is not beautiful because it is like something else. Neither is a work of art. Roses and works of art are beautiful in themselves" (102). This I took to mean that I should not find the significance of works of art by classifying the art as "Impressionist," "Post-Impressionist," or anything of the sort. Bell makes it clear that "A work of art is an object beautiful, or significant, in itself, nowise dependent for its value on the outside world, capable by itself of provoking in us that emotion which we call aesthetic" (103). Although this theme seems clear, Bell goes on to discuss in detail the creative thought process of an artist. This seemed a bit contradictory to me. I found it most interesting that Bell is the first author in this series of readings who pointedly addresses poetry, novels, and other artistic works aside from painting and drawing. Whether contradictory or not, Bell's essay is interesting from beginning to end, and his writing style thoroughly engaging.
Reading these essays consecutively was very enlightening in many ways, the most striking of which is the amount of collaboration between these three amazing authors and artists. They obviously shared thoughts, ideas, and opinions freely among themselves. Somehow this collaboration has created an assembly of interconnected theory and opinion, which stands alone, yet enhances each and every idea when read in conjunction. In Roger Fry's essay "Retrospect," found in his collection Vision and Design, he mentions his comrade and collogue Clive Bell. This essay sprucely pulls together the common aesthetic found in each of these essays. Collaboration of the great minds like this has undoubtedly proved invaluable to this reader, and to countless others, making Bloomsbury a touchstone for any who wish to not only learn about Bloomsbury issues, but those who wish to learn how collaboration leads to higher understanding of any subject.