‘Telling Decoratively’: Ben Nicholson’s white reliefs and debates around abstraction and modernism in the home in the late 1920s and 30s
Stephenson, Andrew 2008. ‘Telling Decoratively’: Ben Nicholson’s white reliefs and debates around abstraction and modernism in the home in the late 1920s and 30s. Visual Culture in Britain. 9 (2), pp. 43-60.
Within the dynamic visual culture of late 1920s and 1930s' England, decoration and what constituted and signified the 'decorative' remained a vexed and much debated issue. Clement Greenberg had proposed that decoration was 'the spectre that haunted modernist painting', and terms such as 'decorative' were frequently employed by British art writers and critics as ones of disapproval and disapprobation. As any work that apparently compromised its artistic credentials and aesthetic integrity for easily attainable ornamental effects was branded as inferior, British artists frequently had to defend modernist work from the condemnation that it was amateurish, inauthentic and superficial. At key moments in these discussions, the language of sexual difference was strategically employed to reinforce distinctions between traditional forms of decoration and an emerging international modernism positively identified with the 'masculine', the professional, the rational and technological. By contrast, decoration was aligned with the 'feminine' and the fashionable, supporting the widespread claim that it signified an artist's market orientation and modern art's commercialisation.
|Keywords||British art; Modernism; 1920s and 1930s; commercialisation of art; aesthetic integrity; English reductive modernism|
|Journal||Visual Culture in Britain|
|Journal citation||9 (2), pp. 43-60|
|Accepted author manuscript|
|Web address (URL)||http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/manup/vcb/2008/00000009/00000002/art00003|
|Publication process dates|
|Deposited||29 Oct 2010|
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