“Beneath the colour there was the shape”: Clive Bell, Roger Fry and Artistic Vision in To the Lighthouse
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Virginia Woolf’s novels are considered to be amongst the treasures of modernist literature. Revising the conventional realist novel, Woolf explores new techniques in her writings to examine and expand the notions of art, experimenting with her portrayal of time and space and of consciousness and reality. The influence of art critics Roger Fry and Clive Bell were crucial to these explorations, especially in connection to visual arts and aesthetics more generally. This project explores Woolf’s application and reinterpretation of Fry and Bell’s aesthetics and analyzes her contemplation on art through the lens. Three central questions are constantly reviewed: What is art? How are works of art created? And what are the justification for and significance of art? Specifically, it sets up two frameworks, namely the contrast between “actual life and imaginative life” and between “vision and design,” based on Fry’s Vision and Design and Bell’s Art. It discusses how Woolf’s own theory of art emerges in To the Lighthouse and Between the Acts from her use and revision of Fry and Bell as she provides their formal frameworks with historical context that focuses on the position of women and the female artist.