'Tending the Lamp' or 'Minding their own Business'? Bloomsbury Art and Pacifism during World War I'

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

This article challenges the view that the Bloomsbury group went into political and artistic retreat during the First World War. Drawing on archival material and contemporary publications, it argues instead that they demonstrated a principled commitment to pacifism, consistent with their pre-war aspirations and audaciously made public. I show how Roger Fry’s Omega Workshops, usually dismissed as a fragile commercial enterprise crippled by the war, become invaluable as a declaration of civilized values, and a meeting place for the group’s embattled community. My study of the Omega centres on its publication of Pierre Jean Jouve’s Vous êtes des hommes (1915) in an edited version which transformed the French text into a manifesto for Bloomsbury pacifism. Historians have likewise misunderstood the Bloomsbury artists’ wartime painting as gesturing their indifference. Read in conjunction with Clive Bell’s article Art and War (1915), however, Vanessa Bell’s papier collé Triple Alliance (1914) emerges as a sophisticated exploration of the relationship between aestheticism and politics, and an assertion of the priority of the individual over the state.
Translated title of the contribution'Tending the Lamp' or 'Minding their own Business'? Bloomsbury Art and Pacifism during World War I'
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7 - 19
Number of pages13
JournalImmediations: The Research Journal of the Courtauld Institute of Art
Volume1
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Courtauld Institute of Art

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