Ford Madox Ford’s art criticism is a mode of writing which stems from a mode of searching for connections among various forms of artistic expression and of establishing a dialectical relationship with history and tradition, by following the threads of one’s own memories, knowledge, and passions of the mind. By weaving throughout his whole life a net of interrelated acts of reading and writing, both creative and critical, Ford as an artist-critic is constantly composing a discourse characterised by comprehensiveness, not by discreteness. The principle of selection he applies to the craft of writing is not neglected, but fulfilled by the critic’s ability to discern and distinguish significant artworks within a corpus which spans the whole cultural history of western literatures and arts. My argument is that during the decade from 1896 to 1906, with the publication of his critical monographs, Ford initiated the critique of 19th-century art and culture, which the avant-garde movements were to address in their programmatic, iconoclastic assault one decade later. Between 1896, the year of the publication of Ford Madox Brown: A Record of His Life and Work and 1906, when The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. A Critical Monograph appeared, Ford published Rossetti. A Critical Essay on his Art in 1902, and Hans Holbein The Younger. A Critical Monograph in 1905. Each of them stands out as an emblematic example of Ford’s impressionist art criticism, and three of them open the way for the 20th-century criticism of Victorian culture. In particular, Rossetti. A Critical Essay on his Art is a seminal study which involves a complex mediation between the modernist iconoclastic attitude towards tradition and the acknowledgement that there were late 19th-century artists who brought innovations to English art. As a matter of fact, Ford Madox Ford’s construction of a discourse on Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poetics, technique and artistic personality does not impress the reader as a research conducted with rigorous methodological tools, though founded on a deep knowledge of the subject. However, Ford’s reception of Rossetti’s modes of representation through literature and painting significantly contributes to the development of Ford’s own aesthetic theories and experimental practices. The specific value here attributed to the monograph on Rossetti is Ford’s capability to interweave, at a very early stage of his artistic development, the intriguing portrayal of Rossetti’s double talent, of his artistic temperament, of his cultural models, with personal views on Art, albeit in his typical unsystematic way, and with the formulation of his own poetics. Furthermore, the dialectic encounter of a Proto-Modernist with a late Victorian involves a diachronic cultural shift, which allows the critic to confront some distinctive features of their art and personality with the cultural contexts of the late Victorian age and modernism. Rossetti’s and Ford’s conceptions thus enable the critic to explore the degree of proximity of two cultural systems and thus to deal with an issue still crucial for literary history and criticism: the modernist reception of the late Victorian legacy. Ford’s views of the arts are composed into a wide reference system which provide him with a multiplicity of topics and issues to be encompassed into a multi-layered discourse on poetics; however, I would also like to suggest that a distinctive role can be ascribed to his first works of art criticism. The specificity of the monographs written between 1896 and 1906 is to be found in the anticipation with which they respond to some crucial issues on the status of the arts between tradition and innovation, between originality and conformity to conventions of writing and to recognised models in the visual arts. Thus, Ford’s study on Rossetti will be primarily regarded as a work of literary criticism sustaining a revisionist discourse on late romanticism, even though it is not easily classifiable as a critical monograph, because of its constant intermingling with the genre of biography. Beginning with the acknowledgement that Ford’s constant inter-fusing of creativity and criticism blurs the boundaries between the art of writing and the art of assessing, my assumption is that the rupture with the late Romantic theories of art, through which the modernists have constructed their own poetics, is a significant issue in Ford’s monographs on Victorian artists. In recent years scholars have offered new insight into the permanence of late-Victorian modules in modernist literature and art, and to the response of critics like Roger Fry and Adrian Stokes to Victorian critics such as Ruskin or Pater. Victorian scholars such as John Dixon Hunt in The Pre-Raphaelite Imagination, 1848-1900 and Lothar Hönnighausen in The Symbolist Tradition in English Literature. A Study of Pre-Raphaelitism and Fin de siècle paved the way for the study of Pre-Raphaelite germs in modernist poetry and prose, by emphasising the impact of the Pre-Raphaelite poetic imaginary, a landscape of the spirit, lost and haunting, chased as well as nostalgically sought after. Pre-Raphaelitism acted as a cultural soil which nurtured Pound, Eliot, and Yeats, and Rossetti’s aestheticised medievalism can be regarded as the expression of a poetry conceived as a mode of evoking an ideal otherwhere, a model still alluring in its quest for a dimension of beauty and pathos mixed with languor. As far as Ford Madox Ford is concerned, the Pre-Raphaelite nexus has mainly been examined in connection with his biography and cultural background. Rossetti. A Critical Essay on his Art calls for further investigation: here Ford, an intellectual who became strongly engaged with the redefinition of modernity in an avant-garde perspective, reveals a deep capability of envisaging aspects of ‘modernity’ in an artist whose work dates between 1850 and 1880. Ford’s distinction between the originality of Rossetti’s poetic voice and his affected exploitation of stylised, repetitive modules brings evidence to the hypothesis that the ‘new to be made’ does not involve an act of cultural eradication, but stems from the ‘old to be deconstructed’: the deconstruction of Victorian modules induced modernist authors to found a new epistemological interrogation and new aesthetic standards.

A Proto-Modernist Artist-Critic Encounters a Victorian Painter-Poet: Ford Madox Ford on Dante Gabriel Rossetti

SPINOZZI, Paola
2002

Abstract

Ford Madox Ford’s art criticism is a mode of writing which stems from a mode of searching for connections among various forms of artistic expression and of establishing a dialectical relationship with history and tradition, by following the threads of one’s own memories, knowledge, and passions of the mind. By weaving throughout his whole life a net of interrelated acts of reading and writing, both creative and critical, Ford as an artist-critic is constantly composing a discourse characterised by comprehensiveness, not by discreteness. The principle of selection he applies to the craft of writing is not neglected, but fulfilled by the critic’s ability to discern and distinguish significant artworks within a corpus which spans the whole cultural history of western literatures and arts. My argument is that during the decade from 1896 to 1906, with the publication of his critical monographs, Ford initiated the critique of 19th-century art and culture, which the avant-garde movements were to address in their programmatic, iconoclastic assault one decade later. Between 1896, the year of the publication of Ford Madox Brown: A Record of His Life and Work and 1906, when The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. A Critical Monograph appeared, Ford published Rossetti. A Critical Essay on his Art in 1902, and Hans Holbein The Younger. A Critical Monograph in 1905. Each of them stands out as an emblematic example of Ford’s impressionist art criticism, and three of them open the way for the 20th-century criticism of Victorian culture. In particular, Rossetti. A Critical Essay on his Art is a seminal study which involves a complex mediation between the modernist iconoclastic attitude towards tradition and the acknowledgement that there were late 19th-century artists who brought innovations to English art. As a matter of fact, Ford Madox Ford’s construction of a discourse on Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poetics, technique and artistic personality does not impress the reader as a research conducted with rigorous methodological tools, though founded on a deep knowledge of the subject. However, Ford’s reception of Rossetti’s modes of representation through literature and painting significantly contributes to the development of Ford’s own aesthetic theories and experimental practices. The specific value here attributed to the monograph on Rossetti is Ford’s capability to interweave, at a very early stage of his artistic development, the intriguing portrayal of Rossetti’s double talent, of his artistic temperament, of his cultural models, with personal views on Art, albeit in his typical unsystematic way, and with the formulation of his own poetics. Furthermore, the dialectic encounter of a Proto-Modernist with a late Victorian involves a diachronic cultural shift, which allows the critic to confront some distinctive features of their art and personality with the cultural contexts of the late Victorian age and modernism. Rossetti’s and Ford’s conceptions thus enable the critic to explore the degree of proximity of two cultural systems and thus to deal with an issue still crucial for literary history and criticism: the modernist reception of the late Victorian legacy. Ford’s views of the arts are composed into a wide reference system which provide him with a multiplicity of topics and issues to be encompassed into a multi-layered discourse on poetics; however, I would also like to suggest that a distinctive role can be ascribed to his first works of art criticism. The specificity of the monographs written between 1896 and 1906 is to be found in the anticipation with which they respond to some crucial issues on the status of the arts between tradition and innovation, between originality and conformity to conventions of writing and to recognised models in the visual arts. Thus, Ford’s study on Rossetti will be primarily regarded as a work of literary criticism sustaining a revisionist discourse on late romanticism, even though it is not easily classifiable as a critical monograph, because of its constant intermingling with the genre of biography. Beginning with the acknowledgement that Ford’s constant inter-fusing of creativity and criticism blurs the boundaries between the art of writing and the art of assessing, my assumption is that the rupture with the late Romantic theories of art, through which the modernists have constructed their own poetics, is a significant issue in Ford’s monographs on Victorian artists. In recent years scholars have offered new insight into the permanence of late-Victorian modules in modernist literature and art, and to the response of critics like Roger Fry and Adrian Stokes to Victorian critics such as Ruskin or Pater. Victorian scholars such as John Dixon Hunt in The Pre-Raphaelite Imagination, 1848-1900 and Lothar Hönnighausen in The Symbolist Tradition in English Literature. A Study of Pre-Raphaelitism and Fin de siècle paved the way for the study of Pre-Raphaelite germs in modernist poetry and prose, by emphasising the impact of the Pre-Raphaelite poetic imaginary, a landscape of the spirit, lost and haunting, chased as well as nostalgically sought after. Pre-Raphaelitism acted as a cultural soil which nurtured Pound, Eliot, and Yeats, and Rossetti’s aestheticised medievalism can be regarded as the expression of a poetry conceived as a mode of evoking an ideal otherwhere, a model still alluring in its quest for a dimension of beauty and pathos mixed with languor. As far as Ford Madox Ford is concerned, the Pre-Raphaelite nexus has mainly been examined in connection with his biography and cultural background. Rossetti. A Critical Essay on his Art calls for further investigation: here Ford, an intellectual who became strongly engaged with the redefinition of modernity in an avant-garde perspective, reveals a deep capability of envisaging aspects of ‘modernity’ in an artist whose work dates between 1850 and 1880. Ford’s distinction between the originality of Rossetti’s poetic voice and his affected exploitation of stylised, repetitive modules brings evidence to the hypothesis that the ‘new to be made’ does not involve an act of cultural eradication, but stems from the ‘old to be deconstructed’: the deconstruction of Victorian modules induced modernist authors to found a new epistemological interrogation and new aesthetic standards.
9788849119282
Dante Gabriel Rossetti; età vittoriana; Ford Madox Ford; Modernismo; critica d'arte; romance come genere letterario; letteratura e arte visiva.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11392/1192006
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