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Roger Fry’s ‘Difficult and Uncertain Science’

The Interpretation of Aesthetic Perception

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Adrianne Rubin

This new study traces the development and evolution of the writings of Roger Fry (1866-1934), a highly influential art critic who introduced modern French painting to Britain in the early twentieth century. Through close analysis of his writings, the author examines the role that emerging psychological theories played in the formulation and expression of Fry’s aesthetic theories. She also discusses aspects of physiological psychology, Gestalt theory, psychoanalysis and adaptive psychology, arguing that detailed analyses of aesthetic perception comprise the core of Fry’s writings. Though he has rarely been credited with this goal, this volume shows that Fry sought to make art accessible to a wide audience and that highlighting the universal aspects of aesthetic perception was a means to this end.
The book offers a chronological study of select essays and lectures, both published and unpublished, written by Roger Fry between the 1890s and his death in 1934. Where relevant his writings are juxtaposed with those of other art critics and theorists to identify factors that shaped his thinking and his use of terminology and to clarify the critical context in which he was working. Since Fry’s work as a visual artist ran alongside his critical thinking, some attention is given to his paintings as a method of illustrating his practical experimentation with aesthetic principles, particularly formalist concepts.

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Acknowledgements

Extract

My heartfelt thanks go to Frances Spalding and Christopher Butler for their tireless guidance of my doctoral research as well as for their immense generosity of spirit. Sincere appreciation goes to Annabel Cole, Roger Fry’s granddaughter, for her willingness to enlighten me about her grandfather’s life and work. I also wish to thank Rosalind Moad, former Archivist at the Modern Archive Centre at King’s College, Cambridge, and the Provost and Fellows of King’s College, Cambridge for facilitating my research with such kindness. The transformation of this text from doctoral thesis to monograph would not have been possible without the support of a grant from The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, or without the support and time af forded me by my colleagues at the Museum of Biblical Art. The editorial staf f at Peter Lang has been a pleasure to work with and I thank especially Hannah Godfrey and Laurel Plapp for their patient guidance. Many others have encouraged, inf luenced and inspired this project over the years and they each have my heartfelt gratitude: Paul Anderson, Michael Archer, the late Dana Brand, J. B. Bullen, Jenny Cashman, Guillaume Chevillon, David Christman, Anne-Marie Drummond, Carmella Elan- Gaston, Patrick Flanery, Sean Gaston, Max de Gaynesford, Michele Gemelos, Fred Goldberger, Alex Guembel, Geraldine Johnson, Martin Kemp, Marius Kwint, David Landau, Paul Langford, Avi Lifschitz, Lisia and Paige Newmark, Gavin Parkinson, Rubina Raja, Lavanya Rajamani, Katerina Reed-Tsocha and Felix Reed-Tsochas, Duncan Robinson, Silvia Rossetto, Sheera Sutherland, Naoko Takahatake, and Andrew...

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