Saturday, 10 October 2009

1968 Art Critic Quotes Views of 1850’s Racialist as Truth

While revising the subject of Primitivism for my exam next week I looked up the word up in a book I’d brought ages ago. The author was Sir Herbert Read (1893–1968) , the book was the ‘new and revised’ 1968 edition of his pocket book The Meaning of Art a standard introductory text to art based on articles for the now defunct magazine The Listener – the BBC’s weekly literary journal. On page 76 he describes the ‘Negro’ as follows

Indeed it has been said with truth by Count Gobineau the Negro possess in the highest degree that sensual faculty which our civilised instincts tends to destroy, but without which no art is possible. It is certainly true that from a study of art of the Negro and Bushman we are led to an understanding of art in its most elemental forms and the elementary is always the most vital[1]

I could not believe it 1968 and he was quoting Count Joseph Arthur De Gobineau (1816-82). Gobineau - believed that

Inequality between the races was immutable- the superior. Of the three great graces in human history – the superior Aryan (white ) race the inferior yellow and black- the last two Untermenschen (literally , under peoples) enjoyed a propondence of numbers. [2]

The 1960s in art was a revolutionary time as there was the shift from modernism to postmodernism set against the historical backdrop of the Vietnam War, the rise of Feminism , Decoloniastion, Black power and swinging Sixties.

Yet here was a noted art critic writing for a prestigious journal , at the time, quoting the views on race almost century old, the mind boggles and the jaw drops.

But this is art history opinions and views with the occasional fact no matter how old and disputed.

[1] Read, pg 71
[2] King pg 103

King, C. (ed) (1999) Views of Difference: Different Views of Art, New Haven and London, Yale University Press
Read, H. (1968), The Meaning of Art, London, Faber & Faber

No comments:

Post a Comment