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by Nicola Glover

| Introduction | Chapter: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | Conclusion | Bibliography |

Chapter Three

The Development of Kleinian Aesthetics


What would live in song immortally must in life first perish. Schiller

Freud was always interested in the creative achievements of human beings and coined the term 'sublimation' to denote the transmuting of basic instinct for biological satisfaction into an exalted form of conduct and civilised achievement in the 'sublime' and non-physical world of symbols. For Klein, however, creativity was a much more involved process. It was seen not as the simple transforming of an instinct, but an infinitely more complex activity involving the concept of reparation, play and unconscious phantasy activity, together with the synthetic function of the life instincts.


As we saw in the last Chapter, during the late forties and fifties, Kleinian concepts were beginning to open up a whole new perspective on the relationship between the developing mind and its relationship to internal and external objects. The emphasis was shifting away from psycho-sexual phases, to the phenomenology of the ego's relationship to primary objects (the mother's body), under the sway the life and death instincts. This approach allowed better understanding of the changing ego-structure and its relation to the perception of the world. This, together with an emphasis symbolisation as a sublimatory, developmental activity, and the formulation of the concept of the depressive position, enriched psychoanalysis with new tools for understanding the location and genesis of creativity, together with a concept of aesthetic value, which, in the Kleinian account is inextricable from the emergence of the moral sense.

As we shall see in section one below, it was largely through the pioneering work of Klein's pupil, Hannah Segal, that these insights were applied to the domain of art and the understanding of creativity. In sections two and three we will see how Adrian Stokes's seven-year analysis with Klein and his acquaintance with the psychoanalytic world greatly enlarged his critical project and enriched his critical writing with an evocative language and new conceptual tools.


1. The aesthetics of Hannah Segal

As we noted in the last Chapter, Klein contributed only three papers which touched on artistic material and did not develop an aesthetic theory as such. Like Freud, her interest in art related to the way it could illuminate and clarify certain aspects of her psychoanalytic theory that she was interested in at the time. It was Klein's pupil and close ally, Hannah Segal, who was the first to fully elaborate a Kleinian aesthetic.1. During the 1940s and 1950s, Segal (along with Kleinian co-workers such as Wilfred Bion) contributed to the pioneering of the psychoanalysis of schizophrenics. She was especially interested in the disturbance of symbol-formation in schizophrenia. Her observations confirmed the implications of Klein's original working hypothesis that the fixation-point for psychosis lay in the paranoid-schizoid position and was related to an impaired capacity to form symbols.2. This interest in symbols and their failure to become established, led Segal into the domain of aesthetics and she focused on the attainment of the depressive position as the sine qua non of both successful symbol-formation and artistic activity.

In Segal's 'A Psychoanalytic Approach to Aesthetics', the first "Kleinian aesthetic" is put forward in theoretical form.3. In this important paper, she points out that in the past, psychoanalysis, through its discovery of unconscious phantasy life and symbolic processes, had made possible psychological interpretations of art works, such as Freud's analysis of Leonardo. Other papers have shown how the latent content of universal infantile anxieties are symbolically expressed in art works - examples are Freud's 'The Theme of the Three Caskets' (1913), Jones's 'The Madonna's Conception Through the Ear' (1914), and Klein's 'Infantile Anxiety Situations' (1929).

Such psychoanalytic approaches, however, have dealt with psychological interest but have left the unaddressed the 'central problem of aesthetics', which, Segal says, concerns the nature of 'good' art and what distinguishes it from other human activities, and especially 'bad' art. Freud gave an account of how the artist's phantasy life shapes his creation but failed to give an adequate account of why we should derive pleasure from listening to such daydreams. His suggestion is that we derive pleasure and a release of tension from seeing our own deepest phantasies expressed for us. As I pointed out in chapter one, Freud was not interested in the formal qualities of art, so much as their symbolic content. In his essay on Leonardo, example, he makes no claim to understanding why Leonardo was a great painter, because to do that he would have to know more about the sources of creativity, the 'innermost secret' as yet untapped by psychology.

Segal believes that Klein's concept of the depressive position enables us to 'isolate in the psyche of the artist the specific factors which enable him to produce a satisfactory work of art' and will 'further our understanding of the aesthetic value of the work of art, and of the aesthetic experience of the audience'.4. She elucidates, using some clinical material and examples from literature, two major concerns of aesthetics: the distinction between successful and unsuccessful art, and the nature of the audience's aesthetic experience.

Segal recapitulates the process that Klein described: the infant's movement from the fragmentation of the paranoid-schizoid position (a world essentially composed of part-objects split into ideally good and overwhelmingly persecutory), to an awareness of the people around him as whole persons. The child comes to see the whole object as having both good and bad qualities. This whole object, says Segal, 'is loved and introjected and forms the core of an integrated ego'. However, because of this situation, the infant now feels a new kind of anxiety. The persecution he felt from his bad objects now becomes a fear of loss of the loved whole object, both in the external world and inside him. The sadistic phantasies are still active at this stage and threaten to destroy and fragment the object both from the inner and the outside world. According to the Kleinian view, it is the memory of the good situation when the ego contained the whole object, together with a realization that the child's own sadism is responsible for the destruction of the object, which evoke the wish to restore and recreate the lost, damaged object, both outside and within the ego. At this stage, a more acute sense of inner and outer reality develops, so from this perspective, artistic (reparative) activity cannot be viewed as regressive and neurotic. Indeed, the urge to restore, repair and recreate the world anew is inseparable from the development of a realistic relationship to the external world, and this lies at the heart of subsequent "authentic" creativity.

But this pathway from fragmentation to integration is not without obstacles. If depressive anxieties are not tolerated and there is a lack of confidence in the capacity to restore the object, then the loved object is felt to be irretrievably lost. This frustration may result in the object being fragmented into persecutors, and the 'internal situation is felt to be hopeless'. What Segal (following Klein) calls the manic defences, are activated to protect the ego from feelings of loss. These involve a 'denial of psychic reality, omnipotent control, and a partial regression to the paranoid position and its defences: splitting, idealisation, denial, projective identification'.5.

In a later paper, Segal describes in more detail the kind of artistic creation characteristic of the manic defence, exploring the 'shadowy area in which originate both the psychotic delusion and the artistic creation'.6. This touches on a theme which also concerns Milner (1952), Winnicott (1951), and Ehrenzweig (1967), but these writers prefer to stress the positive aspects of the manic experience. As we shall see in Chapter six, section 2 below, illusion is regarded by these writers as an essential aspect of all symbol-formation, vital for psychological development and creativity. However, Kleinians do not credit illusion with a constructive, developmental role and they regard such experience as omnipotent, involving a denial of reality, bordering on the pathological, and inimical to creativity. Later, we will see how these differences were implicated in the Klein-Winnicott debate in 1951, over the status of Winnicott's 'transitional object' - a concept that highlights the benign experience of illusion (as opposed to 'delusion',) grounding healthy psychic development.


Segal stresses that one of the major tasks of the artist is to create a world of his own. Even when he believes that he is faithfully reproducing the external world, the artist is in fact using this world to rebuild his inner realm. Segal cites Proust as a good example of an artist compelled to create by the need to recover his lost past, and in Remembrance of Things Past, he describes the process of his own creativity. All Proust's lost loved objects (his parents, his grandmother, and his much loved Albertine) are recaptured and brought back to life - indeed, according to the Kleinian view, it is only these lost or dead objects that can be made into a work of art. Elstir the painter says 'It is only by renouncing that one can re-create what one loves', implying 'that a creation is really a re-creation of a once loved and once whole, but now lost and ruined object, a ruined internal world and self'.7.

It must be borne in mind that the movement from the paranoid-schizoid to the depressive position is by no means a 'stage' which, when worked-through, remains secured. It remains a challenge throughout life. Indeed, the Kleinian analyst, Wilfred Bion (1962) believed that there is an on-going oscillation between paranoid-schizoid fragmentation and depressive re-integration which is a necessary part of creative living. He designated this movement as 'PS« D', and, as I shall explore in the next Chapter, linked it with the philosophical writing of Poincaré and the insights of Keats. Like Bion, Ehrenzweig (1967) also emphasised the creative rhythm between fragmentation and re-integration, but thought that between these two extremes there lies another, a 'manic-oceanic' phase which acts like a 'receiving womb' to hold the fragmented reality in suspension, before its eventual re-integration.

If the depressive position is not fully worked-through, Segal observes that artistic inhibition is likely resulting in the production of an 'unsuccessful artistic product'. (Art that is too "slick", a decorative prettification, is regarded as inauthentic.) To illustrate this, Segal gives clinical examples of artists who have suffered inhibitions in relation to their work because of an incapacity to work-through depressive anxieties. One example concerns a young girl, 'A', with a talent for painting, but whose rivalry with her mother made her give it up. After some analysis she began doing decorative work and handicrafts but realised, however, that this was not 'real' painting, as it failed to be 'moving and aesthetically significant'. The girl would deny in a manic way that this caused her concern. When Segal interpreted these unconscious sadistic attacks on her father and the resulting depression from the internalization of this mutilated and damaged father, the patient recalled a dream. The girl, in the dream, had seen a picture in a shop which represented a wounded man alone in a forest. She felt quite overwhelmed with emotion and admiration for this picture and thought that it represented the essence of life. If only she could paint like that, she would be a truly successful artist.

Segal interpreted that if 'A' could fully acknowledge the depression over the wounding and destruction of her father, she would then be able to express it in her painting and achieve 'real art'. Because of her excessive sadism and resulting despair, it was impossible for the patient to do this. The manic denial of her depression led to the delusion that all was right with her world. The dream showed not only the girl's sadistic attacks on her father, but also 'the effect on her painting by her persistent denial of depression'.8. According to Segal, this denial of depression led to a 'superficiality and prettiness' in her artwork - the denial of her dead father and the ugliness and conflict she felt, were not allowed to disrupt her ordered work.

Segal notes that patient 'A' also suffered from sexual difficulties as well as creative blocks, and this points to the 'genital aspect involved in artistic creation', which is of great importance because


Creating a work of art is a psychic equivalent of pro-creation. It is a genital bisexual activity necessitating a good identification with the father who gives, and the mother who receives and bears the child.9.

Segal wonders whether there exists a specific factor in the psychology of the successful artist which would differentiate him from the unsuccessful one. According to Freud (1911) what distinguishes the neurotic from the artist is that the latter finds his way back to reality again, and moulds his phantasies into another kind of reality. Segal adds that the artist has an acute reality sense in two ways: first, towards his own inner reality, which is not confused with the external world; and secondly, the artist is acutely aware of the reality of his medium. The artist must become highly sensitive to the nature, needs, limitations and possibilities of his material, be it words, paints, stone, clay or wood. The neurotic as well as the 'bad' artist, uses his material in an omnipotent, magic way. The 'real' artist is aware of both his inner world and the nature of his medium, which he is able to work upon to express his phantasy. The artist, like the neurotic, must suffer depression, but the artist reveals a greater capacity for tolerating anxiety. (As we shall see in chapter 4, section 2, below, this capacity to tolerate painful experience plays a crucial role in Bion's theory of thinking, and he formulates it in terms of Keats's 'Negative Capability'.) Although the artist withdraws into his inner realm of phantasy, he is more able than most to communicate and share his vision. Thus he makes reparation, not only to his own internal objects but to the external world as well.

Segal wonders whether this new light on the psychology of the artist can help us to understand the aesthetic pleasure experienced by the audience. Does it help us to understand the link between the artist's own 'mental constellation' and that of his public? What makes a work of art a satisfactory experience? Freud himself recognised that there was something about the artist's state of mind which was implicated in the aesthetic experience of the audience; indeed, he comes nearest to the Kleinian account when he observes that


... what grips us so powerfully can only be the artist's intention, in so far as he has succeeded in expressing it in his work and in getting us to understand it. I realise that this cannot be merely a matter of intellectual comprehension; what he aims at is to awaken in us the same emotional attitude, the same mental constellation as that which in him produced the impetus to create.10.


But as we have seen earlier, Freud does not pursue this observation, for his emphasis on the content of phantasies rather than their structure precludes him from linking aesthetic experience to the objective, formal qualities of the object. Freud was certainly aware of an aspect of artistic experience which Kleinian theory was able to develop more fully. Segal, for example, does this when she observes that the 'aesthetic emotion proper', is


... the pleasure derived from a work of art and unique in that it can only be obtained through a work of art, is due to an identification of ourselves with the work of art as a whole and with the whole internal world of the artist as represented by his work. In my view, all aesthetic pleasure includes an unconscious reliving of the artist's experience of creation.11.

In classical tragedy, for example, the spectator identifies himself with the author, the whole tragedy, and with the author's inner world. The spectator is able to face the ruin and devastation of the central character because the artist has himself faced the reality of his own broken inner world, and despite this pain, has been able to create a unified work of art. Out of all the chaos and destruction, the formal qualities of the work (unity of time, place and action) bring together the fragmented parts of the inner world and demonstrate that out of destruction comes wholeness again. Thus, through the creation of his art, the artist faces his depressive anxieties, and allows his audience to experience their own - but in a bearable way. The 'perfect form' of the art work allows a re-integration to take place, harmonizing the chaotic content of the art work, which reflects the fragmented inner world.

Unlike classical Freudian aesthetics, the Kleinian account of art is better equipped to address what comprises the formal elements of beauty. Segal analyses the term 'beautiful' and concludes that it is 'but one of the categories of the aesthetically satisfying'. J. Rickman (1940) also connected the beautiful with the whole object, while E. Sharpe (1935) considers beauty essentially as rhythm - the rhythmical movement of the body which creates a feeling of continuity and pleasure - the life force itself, perhaps. However, Segal does not equate 'good' art with beauty, nor 'bad' art with what is 'ugly'. She believes that both beauty and ugliness must be present for a full aesthetic experience. Beauty is the expression of the life instinct, and ugliness is the expression of the destructive force of the death instinct.12. As in psychic health, there must be an awareness of both aspects. All successful (authentic) art must embody the deep experience of the artist - that is, his depression, whose working-through lies at the heart of all artistic creation. Indeed, it is not unusual to find that deeply moving art often stirs feelings of both rapture and melancholy. (Klein, we remember, was the first to make explicit the link between the working-through of depression and artistic creativity, when she described in her 1929 paper, how the painter Ruth Kjär worked-through the loss of her mother through the painting of her portrait.)

A number of commentators have drawn attention to the awesome, even terrifying aspects of great beauty, an experience which seems to embody the fearful experience of depression and death. According to the Freudian analyst, H. Sachs, this is because the static, eternal, element in beauty is a manifestation of the death instinct. The nineteenth-century aesthetic critic, Walter Pater (whose essay on Leonardo da Vinci had influenced Freud's writing on the artist, and whose critical writings had made considerable impact on the development of Adrian Stokes's thinking) was also acutely sensitive to the relationship between beauty, terror and death, and it is a theme which Pater often returns to throughout his writing. For instance, he perceives in Leonardo's work the 'interfusion of the extremes of beauty and terror', and regards it as an image which 'from childhood we see ... defining itself on the fabric of his [Leonardo's] dreams'. Pater also notes the artist's preoccupation with the woman's 'unfathomable smile, always with a touch of something sinister in it', and notes how the 'fascination of corruption penetrates in every touch [the] exquisitely finished beauty' of Leonardo's Medusa.13.


Although Segal has remained the main exponent of traditional Kleinian aesthetics, she has subsequently modified her views on a number of issues. Following the work of her colleague, E. Jacques, Segal now sees an important difference between a 'pre-mid-life' and a 'post-mid-life' type of creativity. The former kind of artist seeks more of an ideal object, and post-mid-life, seeks the re-creation of a more independent object.14.

The impact of the 'mid-life crisis' on creativity also concerned Anton Ehrenzweig (1967). He believed that middle age is a time when we tend to lose contact with deeper, unconscious mental levels. But rather than interpreting this loss of contact as the result of a 'drying-up of mental life, a necessary effect of the ageing process due to a lowering of psychic tension', he argues that our increased powers of abstraction 'may be due to a third and last cyclical advance and eventual recession of the death instinct in our mental life'. According to Ehrenzweig (and aligned with the work of Jung), it is a challenge to which we must respond in order to remain 'totally sane' (p. 290).

Although Segal's main thesis - that the resolution of the depressive situation is the essence of authentic art and creativity - remains the same, she now emphasises more 'the role of the idealisation arising from the paranoid-schizoid position'. Here, Segal (1991) shares the view of Adrian Stokes (1965) who argues that the artist seeks a point at which he can sustain simultaneously an ideal object merged with the self, and an object perceived as independent, as in the depressive position. This shift of emphasis has been inspired by developments in Kleinian theory, such as those pioneered in the late fifties and early sixties by Wilfred Bion. His re-evaluation of the positive, communicative role of paranoid-schizoid mechanisms, such as splitting and projective identification, has had a major impact on our understanding of the capacity for thinking, and how it may fail to develop.15.

In Segal's account of art, creativity and aesthetic value are inseparable, for both are achievements of the depressive position. As we have seen, authentic creative phantasies are brought to the fore through the depressive realization of dependency and the acknowledgement of guilt and loss, which result in the urge to repair and restore the world which the infant feels he has damaged. Creativity and aesthetic value arise naturally from a more general developmental achievement, one that is largely dependent on the individual's capacity to work through depressive anxiety. By the lights of this account, only the acknowledgement of loss and the acceptance of one's aggressive impulses, will lead to authentic creativity.

The Kleinian contribution to psychoanalytic aesthetics thus represents a very important step forward supplementing Freud's rather narrow account of aesthetic and cultural value. For Freud, artistic and cultural experience are viewed as being essentially neurotic, wish-fulfilling, regressive activities, with relatively little value in themselves, apart from being consolation for instinctual renunciation, helping to preserve both psychic and social equilibrium. Unlike the Kleinian account, cultural life has little constructive role to play in emotional and intellectual development, or in reality testing.

Professor R. Young has drawn attention to Freud's bleak view of cultural life and argues that Freud, who would 'scorn to distinguish between culture and civilization' ('The Future of an Illusion', 1927), left no space for an account of cultural experience which preserves the sense of it being a thing-in-itself, a source of enrichment and communication. For Freud, culture is a 'thin veneer', the barrier separating our civilised selves from the chaos of unrestrained libidinal impulses. Our tendency toward neurosis is the price we pay for this renunciation. Freud thereby reduces culture to a compromise-formation which barely makes up for our loss, but enables us to preserve the social organization, through an inhibition of our sexual and aggressive instincts. However, although this analysis is indeed pessimistic, it would seem that Freud's view is borne out by history and our present time. The thin veneer of civilization is fragile indeed.16.

However, it must be said that the Kleinian world-view is equally pessimistic about human nature. The Manichean emphasis on good and bad, love and hate, as well as the grim, deterministic view of an innate envious impulse, suggest that we are far from the Rousseau's 'noble -savage'. Klein and Freud's views on human nature resonate more with the sixteenth century philosopher, Thomas Hobbes's belief in our fundamental aggression and destructiveness, which the social bond keeps in check for our self-preservation. Where, for Freud, all cultural and artistic achievement arise from repression, with the Kleinians view, they are arise out of the depressive urge to repair a damaged inner world; culture is an atonement for destructive attacks on our primary object, the maternal body. It is a problem for psychoanalysis, that it tends to view cultural and artistic activity in terms of intrapsychic defence mechanisms, which somehow become implicated within the social domain. Indeed, Marxists criticise psychoanalysis strongly for reducing the social into the private, intrapsychic realm, and this is perhaps one of the reasons why there has been why Marxist and psychoanalytic theory have not been wholly compatible. Indeed, as we shall see in Chapter seven, the art critic Peter Fuller viewed his book Art and Psychoanalysis (1980) as an attempt to harmonise the insights of both Marxism and psychoanalysis. Looking back on his work some years later, he feels that perhaps his hopes were misguided.

Although psychoanalysis seems unable to offer a broadly social theory of human needs and behaviour, the work of the British psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott (1971) offers a non-reductionist account of culture. His is the first psychoanalytic attempt to find space for creative and cultural experience. As I shall explore later, he believes that creative and cultural experience are essential to our psychic development and well-being. For Winnicott, culture is a thing-in-itself, reducible neither to 'repression' (Freud) nor 'reparation' (Klein).

Thus "orthodox" Kleinian aesthetics (articulated mainly by Segal) follows Klein's formulation of the depressive position very closely, which is felt to be the source of all creativity and aesthetic value. Segal makes explicit what was only touched upon in Klein's thinking, connecting the infant's awareness of his own destructiveness and the ensuing drive for reparation, as lying at the heart of all artistic activity. The value and integrity of an object (and object-relationships) are negotiated through the infant's struggle with manic as well as depressive anxieties and a successful working-through of these emotions depends upon on the child's acknowledgement of his own aggression, and the ensuing guilt at the damage he has done. This activates the specific phantasy of reparation - the urge to repair what is felt to have been irrevocably destroyed, and thus the desire to restore the lost, loved object (primarily, the mother) is the essence of all creative achievement.

The value of the object also undergoes an important change with the onset of the depressive position. At the height of the paranoid-schizoid position, where aggressive and destructive phantasies are at their zenith, the sense of whole objects is lacking. The object tends to be split into ideally good elements on the one hand, and persecuting elements, on the other. This means that the object is not seen as a valuable, self-sufficient object entire unto itself. With the onset of the depressive position, however, the good and bad part-objects become gradually integrated into a sense of whole objects, with good and bad aspects. This is a fundamental epistemological achievement for the child, when he perceives that the one object can manifest very different qualities (both frustrating and gratifying ones), but still retains its identity and wholeness. However, this a painful recognition, for it means that the child perceives that not only is his love directed towards his loved object, but also his aggression. This is why, in the early stages of the depressive position, there is still a tendency to regress to the more primitive paranoid-schizoid defences (splitting, projection and idealisation), in order to preserve the phantasy of an ideal object, untouched by hate and aggression. In the depressive position, experiences become less ideal or persecutory and are perceived more objectively. There is a recognition of the object's 'goodness', coupled with a lessening of envious impulses and depleting splitting mechanisms.

Thus, in Segal's theory, the capacity to endow an object with aesthetic value is regarded as the achievement of the depressive position. The creative impulse itself (the specific phantasy of reparation) arises out of the need to repair and restore the loved object (mother) which the child feels he has destroyed through his aggressive phantasies. Creativity and the aesthetic sense are closely allied, arising from the successful toleration of depressive anxiety, without recourse to more primitive, depleting defences. (This position differs in some important respects from other commentators, such as Meltzer (1988) and Ehrenzweig (1967) which I shall explore more fully below.)

It must also be noted that Segal (and orthodox Kleinians) perhaps tend to over-emphasise (idealise?) the depressive position as being the locus of all aesthetic value and creative experience. What Segal fails to emphasise is the broadly creative element of all unconscious phantasying. Kleinians, however, would argue that phantasies other than that of reparation and restoration, are essentially

omnipotent, inimical to the recognition of whole objects, and hence to the creation of art. There is little doubt that the depressive position plays a significant role in aesthetic and creative activity. But, as we shall see later, the contributions of Meltzer, Milner, and Ehrenzweig, for example, call for a reviewing of orthodox Kleinian aesthetics.

In this account, the capacity to experience beauty arises out of the struggle between life and death impulses, and as we have noted earlier, the link between beauty and death is fairly well-acknowledged, particularly in the writings of Pater (whose influence is apparent in Freud's 1910 essay on Leonardo). Despite the fact that a work of art may bear witness to destruction and chaos (Picasso's fragmented women, for example), Segal argues that the very process of creating an art work speaks of the artist's capacity to acknowledge his aggression and fragmentation; to restore the chaotic experience to us in a bearable form. The aesthetic capacity is seen alongside creativity as the product of the depressive position, whose achievement is implicitly valued above the fragmentation characteristic of the paranoid-schizoid position.

It is through the formal characteristics of the art work we gain a sense of wholeness: the frame, the handling of the materials, and so on. In this way, the art work stands apart as an intact world of its own; while it may bear witness to terrifying, fragmented and hostile elements. Kleinians would evaluate an artistic production through their perception of the artist's relationship with his medium. Like the infant, he or she must acknowledge the 'otherness' of the object. "Authentic" (as opposed to omnipotent) creativity must necessarily involve the struggle with external reality - his materials, and probably the burden of artistic tradition, too. (This latter aspect focuses more on the oedipal drama, as described in H. Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence.) The value of the art work will greatly depend on the constellation of anxieties, defences, phantasies that shaped the creation of the artwork; and it is these mechanisms that are directly implicated in the formal elements of the art work and to which the spectator responds in the aesthetic encounter.

As we shall see in section three below, Kleinian insights significantly enriched Stokes's critical project, for he was able to correlate the two main aspects of artistic labour, the traditional distinction between 'carving' and 'modelling' modes, with the depressive and paranoid-schizoid positions respectively. Thus Kleinian theory enabled him to transcend the conventional conception of artistic activity as a series of linear progression through time into what is essentially a spatial history of art. Before we explore this, however, section two will examine the background to Stokes's thinking - particularly the impact of Pater and Ruskin on his approach to art and critical writing. We will appreciate how Stokes's encounter with psychoanalysis not only enhanced his critical vocabulary, but also his own creative achievements.



2. Adrian Stokes and psychoanalysis


The form is mechanic when on any given material we impress a pre-determined form, not necessarily arising out of the properties of the material [...] The organic form, on the other hand, is innate; it shapes as it develops itself from within, and the fullness of its development is one and the same with the perfection of its outward form. Such is life, such the form. S.T. Coleridge, Shakespeare Criticism

.. for the material in which he [the literary artist] works is no more a creation of his own than the sculptor's marble. [...] the art of the scholar is summed up in the observance of those rejections demanded by the nature of his medium. [...] For in truth all art does but consist in the removal of surplusage, from the last finish of the gem-engraver blowing away the last particle of dust, back to the earliest divination of the finished work to be, lying somewhere, according to Michelangelo's fancy, in the rough-hewn block of stone. W. Pater, 'Style'


The contribution of Adrian Stokes is of a very special kind - he is a unique figure in this study, combining a successful career as an art historian, critic, painter and poet with the experience of being in analysis with Melanie Klein for several years.17.

His beginning analysis in 1930 coincided with five years of particularly intensive creation during which time he wrote five books and over thirty articles. In addition, he took up painting in 1936 just at the time when he was establishing himself as an original writer with something very specific to say. When asked why he had decided to take up painting at this particular moment of his career, Stokes would answer that he took began painting because he felt there was no one else around prepared to paint the kind of painting that he thought ought to exist.18. In addition, he became a prolific poet in the late sixties, and a collection of his poems together with a introduction to his life and work, was published soon after his death in 1972.19.

The analyst Eric Rhode, who was a close friend of Stokes, has spoken about the impact psychoanalysis made on the art critic. Apparently psychoanalysis benefitted him in a number of ways: 'he began to write once more, and his writings began to realise the promise that before had only been hinted at'.20. Psychoanalysis made an important contribution to his personal sense of creativity as well as helping to refine his ideas about art. Indeed, the two are so intertwined, it is difficult to say where his creativity ends and his "theory" of art begins.21.

During his twenties Stokes avidly read Ruskin and Pater - the two critics who relate to Stokes most directly in terms of style and sensibility - and his writings abound with undercurrents and allusions to their writing. According to a number of commentators, Stokes is the direct heir to the tradition of Pater and Ruskin's aesthetic and their 'evocative' criticism.22. However, their influence was not altogether benign and although there is a change in theme and emphasis in later years, Stokes never completely detached himself from their influence.23.

In Stones of Rimini, for example (a title with obvious Ruskinian resonances), the great Victorian sage is not explicitly mentioned, but he was certainly an omniscient, ever-present figure during Stokes trip to Italy in 1925. For example, for the diary entry, May 9 1925, Stokes writes that 'Ruskin must have been a eunuch although a great man. [...] He lashes me daily, hurls at me Stones of Venice'. 24.

The Sitwell brothers were another shaping influence on the young Stokes, who says they were 'the first to open my eyes'25. He spent time holidaying with them in Italy and it was during one of these visits that Stokes was introduced to Ezra Pound in 1927. The influence of Pound's 'carving' conception of poetry and their mutual interest in Sigismondo Malatesta, certainly shaped Stokes's fascination with art and architecture.26.

It was psychoanalysis, however, that was to become an increasingly significant factor in both his personal development as well as in his career as writer. From his days at Oxford he had expressed much enthusiasm for Freud, an interest motivated not from intellectual curiosity alone, but one that probably stemmed from deeper, emotional concerns. Richard Wollheim tells us that Freud's Interpretation of Dreams (trans. 1913) and The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (trans. 1914) had made a particularly deep impression on Stokes in his early twenties.27.


Stokes had apparently suffered from debilitating bouts of depression in his adolescence and during his years at Oxford. The chance meeting on the steps of the British Museum in 1928 with Robson-Scott (who had been at Rugby with him and was the translator of Freud's The Future of an Illusion) thus provided Stokes with much needed literature on the subject as well as giving him the opportunity to engage in lengthy discussions with Scott. This led to a seven-year analysis with Klein which began in January 1930, soon after Robson-Scott had introduced Stokes to Ernest Jones (the President of the British Psychoanalytical Society at the time) who in turn introduced him to Mrs Klein, who had newly arrived from Berlin, with a growing reputation for her pioneering work with children. Thus Stokes's life-long partnership with psychoanalysis began.

However, Stokes was deploying psychoanalytic ideas in his work even before his sessions with Klein. For example, on the model of Freud's essay on Leonardo da Vinci, he appears to have drawn no distinction between the analysis of art and the analysis of the subconscious. In 1930 Stokes writes that every detail of Giorgione's La Tempesta [fig. 1 below]


... can be interpreted of direct symbolical significance. I write "can be" rather than "is" not because I doubt the interpretation to be offered, but because I dislike to limit Giorgione's preoccupation. The defect of any analysis, however, in battering down the shades of conscious, semi-conscious, and unconscious intent, must be endured when the object is four centuries away [...] Freedom in all hierarchical barriers down, natural affinities, Giorgione expressed very strictly - the moment was so vivid - in terms of lassitude. Quiet observation had a supreme, a lyrical content. The only worthy discipline in such quiet commands utter relaxation, the discipline of precise images.28.

Stokes was to refine this method considerably over the years in his numerous critical writings. But in this reconciliation of 'utter relaxation' with 'discipline', 'preoccupation' with 'observation', and the achievement of 'lassitude' through the removal of 'hierarchical barriers', it is surely not too fanciful to trace in these examples Stokes's own hopes for psychoanalysis (though they are also a good description of Giorgione's merits).

References to Freud and Klein appeared in his art writings only after the war. Eric Rhode says that 'it was not until 1955, with his study of Michelangelo, that he risked generalising about the connection between psychoanalysis and art'. Similarly, Wollheim recalls that Stokes 'didn't want to be a theoretical writer about art in the light of psychoanalysis' and that the first way in which psychoanalysis affected him was the way in which it 'both coloured the sensibility and gave him a way of describing sensibility'.29.

As a number of his close friends and colleagues suggest, Stokes remained wary of divulging too much about his own analysis, and the more personal aspects of his sessions with Klein. However, in an early review of Klein's The Psycho-Analysis of Children (1932), Stokes expresses some interesting views about the ethics and technique of analysis. He insists that psychoanalysis does not set out to 'change' the patient: 'Analysis does not assault values, nor dispute them. It leads us to view life differently only so far as we have viewed it with an overplus of anxiety. The quantitative and qualitative aspects of each person's vitality remain unique'. We gather from the conclusion of this review that he wished to conceal his relationship with Klein, pretending to have learned only from her preface 'that Mrs Klein had settled in England'. One could view this as a good example of Stokes's wish for discretion and privacy concerning his analysis.30.

Although in his earlier (pre-1950's) work no mention was made of psychoanalytic theories, they were nevertheless at the root of his work. It appears that he needed to assimilate the impact of psychoanalysis fully before he could do otherwise. Rhode is no doubt right in surmising that from The Quattro Cento onwards, 'whole sorts of thought processes were derived from analysis in his books'. There seems to be a natural reciprocity between his psychoanalytic interests and his own intense powers of fantasy. For example, L. Gowing recalls that


The fantasy in his thought was far closer to the surface of day to day conversation and observation than in anybody else I've ever talked to. I remember going to Bertorelli's one evening, and a Negro came in and sat down opposite us with his back to the fluorescent tube in the window. Adrian said: "He's taken the violet out of his skin and hung it up behind him like a hat". This was a beautiful and typical perception of pragmatic ingredients as fantastic elements which was quite new to me.31.

Stokes's essay, 'Living in Ticino', is a particularly poignant and eloquent example of his penetrative imaginative power expressed through evocative prose. He blends Proustian personal recollection with philosophical reflection on the nature of memory and time Memories of family life, an Edwardian childhood, his reappraisal of the past after re-marriage, and thoughts on Italy as a symbol of security and rebirth are intertwined. The essay speaks of the power of the image to fuse a multitude of polarities: space and time; sight and sound; past and present; loss and gain. The relationship between mood and creative perception is evoked through a web of diverse and suggestive imagery: the recollection of the bonfire at his old family home; the sound of bells on a Sunday morning; the security of a canopy of shade at a cafe in Locarno; a huge storm in Genoa ... a light-house flash seen from afar ... a kitsch Edwardian bowl.32.

Stokes's 'Envoi', the end piece to Venice (1945), is very much his psychoanalytic "messenger". Here we read the first coherent statement of a philosophy based implicitly on the psychoanalytic theories of Freud and Klein, preparing us for the books to follow, which explicitly acknowledge their debt to psychoanalysis. The following extract has a particularly strong Kleinian emphasis:


Mental as well as physical life is a laying out of strength within, rivalry, as it were, with the laid-out instantaneous world of space. To project is to distort. [...] We carry with us all the time the certainty of life and death, a relationship parallel to the interdependence of subject and object. [...] Mental processes, unknown in themselves, obtain entry into consciousness through speech. Symbolic substitution even before speech, is natural to the infant. The basis of all speech is substitution, the basis of all projection. To create is to substitute.33.

It is the autobiographical Inside Out (1947), evocatively subtitled 'An Essay in the Psychology and Aesthetic Appeal of Space', in which Stokes strikes the Kleinian keynote of his thinking. The reader will encounter in this little book (and also in Smooth and Rough (1951)), an poignant blend of autobiography and criticism, invoking the vicissitudes of Stokes's Edwardian childhood experience, his travels to Italy and their shaping of his aesthetic perception.

The book begins with the statement that, 'In the nursery, that is where to find the themes of human nature: the rest is 'working-out, though it also be the real music'. This voices his firm commitment to the Kleinian belief in the confluence of infantile experience with adult life - one that informs not only the content of his writings, but also his unique approach to writing about art. The subtle blend of psychoanalysis, autobiography, art history and criticism, create a kind of writing that builds upon the evocative criticism of Hazlitt, Ruskin and Pater. But it also adds psychoanalytic perspective to their insights a which allows a deeper exploration of the relationship between critic, artwork and spectator-reader, thereby enriching the vocabulary of criticism, where 'there is no clear distinction between the physical description of the work and the spectator's response to it', and the 'texture of his writings is analogous to the texture of our actual experiences of art'.34.

After the Second World War, Stokes writings began to address wider cultural and environmental issues, believing that psychoanalysis as a humanistic discipline concerned with value, could offer insight and the possibility of change. However, as Stokes's work broadened to accommodate wider spheres, his readership narrowed. Many of those who had admired his earlier work now claimed to be 'baffled and alarmed by his use of psychoanalytic ideas'. Indeed, the eminent Sir Geoffrey Faber had thought him the greatest prose writer of his generation, but Faber and Faber 'dropped him like a hot potato'.35. Sir Kenneth Clark was one influential art historian who distanced himself from Stokes's psychoanalytic writings, complaining that Stokes had let psychoanalysis 'carry him too far'.36.

Despite a number of his loyal followers falling by the wayside, Stokes continued to immerse himself in psychoanalytic thinking and by 1956 he had founded the Imago Group.37. A number of Stokes's published papers and writings appear to have been first read to this Group: for example, part II of Painting and the Inner World was conceived first as a dialogue between Stokes and the Kleinian analyst, Donald Meltzer, during one of the meetings.38.

We do know that in 1947, after the break-up of his marriage to the painter, Margaret Mellis (an example of her work is featured on the dust-jacket of A Game That Must Be Lost), he resumed psychoanalysis briefly before moving to Switzerland, and marrying Ann, the sister of his first wife. His autobiography, Inside Out, resonant with Kleinian themes concerning human nature and his own childhood experience, was published in the same year; and it would seem reasonable to suggest that it was not only an account of aesthetic sensibility, but also a form of self-analysis. However, unlike the rememorative writings of Hazlitt, Ruskin and Pater, Stokes was able to use his psychoanalytic experience to de-idealise and integrate his childhood experience, rather than splitting it off (as his forebears seem to have done) into an idyllic paradise, or an idealised past wherein lies the key to creative apperception, but remaining separate from the starker realities of adulthood.39.

In a recent contribution, Stephen Bann examines the close relationship between Stokes's aesthetic criticism and his experience of psychoanalysis, and how this can be viewed in the light of a broader perspective - the development of a uniquely British critical tradition that has its roots in the evocative criticism of Ruskin and Pater ( Hazlitt could also be included in this genre). Professor Bann contends that it would not be 'too fanciful to imagine that the English aesthetic critics were in some sense working a furrow parallel to Freud's, and ... Stokes would have found it only natural to step from one to the other'.40.

We can say that Stokes has most in common with Freud and psychoanalysis through his distinctive kind of writing, a style that draws deeply upon his imaginative and evocative powers, linking a number of images and aspects of human consciousness. For Stokes, psychoanalysis seemed to be a way of life, a raison d'être - informing the very texture of his own perceptions and emotional responses, rather than the canonical application of psychoanalytic theory to art and aesthetics - a tendency perceptible in some writers who have deployed psychoanalytic ideas in their work.41.


3. Carving, modelling and Kleinian theory

I shall now turn to what must be one of Stokes's most significant contribution to aesthetics and art history, a theoretical stance which harmonises the conflicting claims of Pater's idealism, on the one hand and Ruskin's materialism on the other, into a coherent account of aesthetic experience supported by the psychological insights of Melanie Klein and her School.42.

Of course, Stokes was not the first to base an art history on such an opposition. Behind his distinction between carving and modelling lies a fundamental polarity that can be traced through the whole history of art.43. His theory of carving and modelling is essentially a spatial history of art in that his approach is not confined to a linear sense of historical progression. 'Modelling' and 'carving' were terms which enabled Stokes to cut across historical boundaries and artistic forms, linking artworks from a number of different epochs and media. Through their celebration of the carving aim, Stokes could show the commensurability of, for example, the sculptor Agostino's work with that of the architect Laurano, together with the painters Piero de la Francesca, Giorgione, Bruegel, Chardin, Cezanne and even with the modern sculptress Hepworth.44.   

In the following pages, I hope it will become clear that through the contribution of Kleinian object-relations theory, Stokes became well-equipped to address the interplay between the artist and his medium, together with the relationship between the spectator-critic and the art work. Indeed, Stokes saw no essential difference in his approach to the relationship between the artist-medium and the spectator-artwork respectively, for according to Kleinian theory, the same intrapsychic processes are at work in all object relationships.

In The Quattro Cento (1932) Stokes outlines the chief characteristics of the art which concerns him.45. The first is 'love of stone' - but this 'love of' stone is not the same as 'attention to' stone, which refers more to artist's omnipotent use of the medium. The 'stone-struck' artist relates to the stone as if it were alive (unlike Michelangelo, who forced his material into life); thus he is sensitive both to its potential as a medium as well its capacity to realise his own fantasies - i.e. its content. The Quattro Cento artist treats his medium as if it were an independent entity that actually contains living figures, and desires that the stone should 'realise its own life'.

An art born out of the love of stone exhibits 'stone-blossom', which Stokes links with the feature he calls 'incrustation'. These two aren't the same, however, for whereas stone-blossom grows out of the work, incrustation has been added from the outside. But they do have in common the negative property that 'they never give the effect of having been put there, just like that' and the more important property of being 'in a tense communion with the plane' which shows them off. Stokes identifies beautifully the dynamic interplay between these two characteristics as he perceives them in Verocchio's Lavabo [figs. 2 and 3 below]


First of all, there is the use of coloured stone, the porphyry arch framing the whole, and the serpentine central disc; also the dark colours of the huge lip of the cup. These make the white marble luminous, and lead the eye to the shadows at the junction of the surfaces, to where, for instance, the bat wings, ribbed and ending in claws like an umbrella, cling to the urn. Hence the feeling of incrustation, surface into surface, and also of growth from within (witness the oak wreath) - of stone blossom.46.

Stokes then identifies 'mass' or 'mass effect' which is again, introduced by way of a contrast. He juxtaposes the massiveness or the 'scenic' effect valued by Roman and Baroque artists (for example, Luciano Laurana's courtyard at Urbino - 'the greatest feat in mass effect known to me'), with any highly linear treatment of space such as we perceive in Brunelleschi. The architecture of the latter displays for Stokes a 'perfect neatness' - implying a frigidity that would appeal to one 'who wished to be civilised in a mountain fastness', contrasting with the freer spirited Luciano, who 'left [his stone] rough'.47. [Figs. 4, 5 and 6 below].

The effect of mass is directly visual making no appeal to touch or to tactile memory: 'mass effect' is directed only to the 'quickness of the eye' and 'allows the immediate, the instantaneous synthesis that the eye alone of the sense can perform'.48. Stokes imaginatively likens architecture which exhibits this characteristic to the immediacy in the wide open face of a rose. In 'Pisanello' (1930), Stokes observes that a Quattro Cento artist refutes Pater's dictum in The Renaissance that 'all art constantly aspires to the condition of music', stressing that art has nothing to do with time, rhythm or with process. It discloses itself instantaneously, thus:


... purely visual matter is dissociated from noise as well as from silence, from past, present and future. Things stand expressed, exposed, unaltered in the light, in space. Things stand.49.

The third aspect of Quattro Cento art is perspective - once more the 'love' rather than its 'use', which characterised those un-Quattro Cento Florentine artists. Stokes conceives of perspective in a rather different way to that with which we are accustomed. Rather than it being conceived of as a primarily visual aid, Stokes sees it as a device which offsets the side-effects of representation. For any attempt to render a three-dimensional space on the flat (representational painting), or deep space in a shallow space (representational relief) lends itself to a powerful attack on that surface. When depth is gouged out, Stokes notes that the artist will attempt to cover this up by the use of 'finish' - a prettification which is in vain for the tension of the plane will have been destroyed. The 'love of perspective' is important here for it gives the artist a way in which he can accommodate and contain (perhaps also make reparation for) the inherent dangers in spatial representation. If the single plane has to be given up, equivalence is restored through a multi-planed picture in relief, where the gradations are progressive rather than sudden.50.

The fourth characteristic is the most subtle: Wollheim perceives that Stokes's word 'emblematic' illustrates nicely a very important aspect of Quattro Cento art. Although the word is used literally, Stokes also uses it in a metaphorical, more creative way, drawing together the sense of the process by which an inner state is objectified - the manifestation or revelation in the external world of what is essentially subjective. In matching inner world experience with that of the outer world, the artist has not followed a set of preconceptions or rules - there is an 'exuberance' where the fit between inner and outer has been 'thrown out' spontaneously. The term 'emblematic' thus evokes the sense of something that can be seen meaningfully only if it is perceived as the outcome of an engagement with the material.

At the time of writing The Quattro Cento Stokes had no way of unifying these characteristics. It was not until Stones of Rimini that he was able to integrate them with the phenomenon of 'carving'. Stokes developed this term, extracting it from its familiar context - the opposition between carving and modelling practices enshrined in traditional art-theory. Although Stokes does refer to the two activities in The Quattro Cento, its fuller possibilities are as yet unrecognised; here the distinction is used in its traditional sense, referring to actual artistic practice. Indeed, as Stokes began to develop his ideas in Stones of Rimini, the traditional deployment of the terms 'carving' and 'modelling' created more confusion than clarity. For instance, Stokes observed that some pure Quattro Cento art, such as Donatello's bronze relief work on the base of 'Judith', was in actual fact, modelled [fig. 7 below].


Stokes also noted that some Northern Italian sculptors were very un-Quattro Cento in the way they quite literally carved their stone.

In Stones of Rimini (1935), we are concerned with suggestiveness and metaphor: the 'imaginative meanings that we attach to stone and water', and Stokes sets out to 'attack the vital though confused distinction between carving and modelling'. Inspired primarily by the bas-reliefs of Agostino he refines the use of the distinction, using it metaphorically - referring to a process or an activity which depicted 'the two main aspects of labour' involved in artistic production. These two activities also represent what is and is not Quattro Cento in Renaissance sculpture and architecture. (To illustrate this distinction, compare the 'modelled' work of Donatello, with that of the 'carver' Agostino, in figs. 8 and 9 below.) Stokes sums up the distinction thus:


... whatever its plastic value, a figure carved in stone is fine carving when one feels that not the figure, but the stone through the medium of the figure, has come to life. Plastic conception, on the other hand, is uppermost when the material with which, or from which, a figure has been made appears no more than as so much suitable stuff for this creation.51.

To 'carve' is essentially to 'polish', for both bring to life that which 'already exists in the block'. Indeed, the careful polishing of the stone is like 'slapping the new-born infant to make it breathe' - a powerful image with echoes of Klein!

The activity of carving is not only judged by the artist-medium interaction, but also through the kind of impression a carved work makes on the viewer. Stokes emphasises that it is an essentially spatial experience, form is unemphatic and graduated carefully. Every part 'is on some equality with every other part', recalling 'a panorama contemplated in equal light by which objects of different dimensions and textures, of different beauty and emotional appeal, whatever their distance, are seen with more or less the same distinctness, so that one senses the uniform dominion of an interrupted space'.52. As the word 'panorama' suggests, visual values are very much intertwined with those found in good landscape. Indeed, Stokes was especially responsive to the Mediterranean landscape, just after sunset, when 'things stand'.

Now we shall look at what 'modelling' entails. Stokes writes:


That with which you model in sculpture is as much a material as the as the stone to be carved, but with modelling activity, the ... plastic material has no 'rights of its own. It is a formless mud used, very likely, to make a model for bronze or brass. Modelling is a much more 'free' activity than carving. The modelled shape is not uncovered but created. This gives rise to freer treatment, free in the sense that it is a treatment unrestricted by so deep an imaginative communion with the significance of the material itself. The modeller realises his design with clay. Unlike the carver, he does not envisage that conception as enclosed in his raw material.53.


Unlike the stone-lover who 'woos' his stone into being, the modeller, treats his medium merely as such suitable stuff for his own creation, giving free rein to his desires and fantasies, rather than communing with its independent qualities. From a Kleinian perspective, we could characterise the modeller by his largely omnipotent unconscious phantasies, as contrasted with the specific phantasy of recreation or reparation, which is closer to the carving mode.54.

Like carving, the modelling or plastic conception is judged both in terms of the artist's relation to his medium as well as the effect on the viewer. The modelled work often 'betrays a tempo' a strong rhythmic quality or 'mental pulse', appealing to our kinaesthetic and tactile senses. The carved work, however, increases the viewer's spatial awareness - temporality becomes spatiality. Examples of modelled work include the 'rapid content' of Rodin's sculpture, the 'calligraphic omnipotence' of Far Eastern pictorial art, and the 'supremely personal, supremely aesthetic' touch of the Baroque artists.

Stokes also applies the distinction to drawing and painting, but we must wait until Colour and Form (1937, republished 1950) for a more extensive and detailed exposition. However, in Stones, Stokes does prepare us for this theme. He suggests that the painter-carver will pay careful attention to the flat surface of his medium and will 'emulate the tonal values which the actual carver reveals on his surfaces, more or less equally lit, of his block'.55.

After describing the essential opposition of carving and modelling in 'Carving, Modelling and Agostino', Stokes emphasises their interdependence. Taken in isolation, they refer to the essence of two extremes but in practice, they coexist (in varying proportions), one mutually sustaining and complementing the other. Thus, plastic conceptions have been 'realised pre-eminently in stone as well as in plastic materials' and the prevalence of the plastic aim in European carving is 'proof of the importance of stone in European art'.56.

Stokes is keen to show how certain periods in history tend to emphasise one mode more than another. In the Renaissance, for instance, the 'love for stone' was particularly intense and an infusion of modelling values served to enhance those 'values proper to stone'. Modelling may vitalise, as well as de-vitalise the carving aim.57. Even Agostino, Stokes's carver par excellence, is an 'offspring of Florentine modelling'. For 'unless he had learned his trade in the Florentine school, he could never have developed so facile and flowering a technique, nor attained such a naturalism'. Stokes admires the infusion of modelling into the carving aim so long as it 'enhances the layer formation of the stone'.58.


Colour and Form (1937) bears witness to an important development in Stokes's career - his own experiences of painting. It is a book which distils a number of years of thought and discussion, mainly with his mentor, the painter Adrian Kent, who had been with Stokes on a painting holiday to St Ives, a favourite haunt for artists. Indeed, as Wollheim notes, this book contains much from which any serious painter can learn.

Colour and Form is particularly significant in Stokes's theoretical development because it is here that he effectively frees the concept of carving from literary and technical restrictions, by extending much further from its traditional architectural and sculptural origins into the domain of painting. Although Piero had been there from the start as a Quattro Cento artist, Stokes now felt able to identify much more precisely the kinds of characteristic intrinsic to a whole kind of painting which exhibited the essential quality or qualities he had found mainly in the work of fifteenth-century architects and sculptors.

So how does Stokes apply carving-modelling values to painting? Basically a kind of painting in which the carving aim is realised is one in which vitality is attributed to the surface of the canvas and the painter dedicates himself to its preservation. An exact parallel is drawn between the vitality with which the canvas is endowed and the potential life that the carver attributes to the stone and then tries to reveal. But vitality can only be preserved if colour determines form, or where colour serves as a 'principle of creation'. But not just any use of colour to shape form will suffice as the analogue to carving. Firstly, colour must be used so as to provide a total organisation of the forms that a picture contains. It must not be used just to balance or offset adjacent forms. Stokes talks of chromatic relations being 'reversible', meaning that the terms to such a relation must be mutually enhanced, and one must not act merely as a foil to the other. For this to be realised, Stokes advises the use of near-complementary colours, where 'at least one colour is neutralised and the other perhaps changed from the normal tone value of its hue'. The carver-artist chooses colours 'which do not so much aim ... at a featureless inter-annihilation, but which point constantly to a common root that nourishes them both'. For example, 'in a certain brown and olive green there is a common yellow to yellow orange parent. They are brothers rather than rivals [...] And because of this, their difference, which each one enhances in the other as if voluntarily, appears all the more remarkable. They have a common ground, a family tree to which they both return for nourishment'. Thus it is through this device that 'identity in difference' is achieved in a painting - a relationship which was so very important to the development of Stokes's thinking, and one which he was to enhance, via the link with 'carving', with the Kleinian account of the depressive position - a mode of experience which celebrates the recognition and tolerance of otherness - in short a mutual enhancement based on co-operation and interchange, as opposed to a destructive competitiveness - what he associated with the 'modelling' mode (which he links with 'part-object' or 'paranoid-schizoid' relationship).59.

Secondly, colour must be used so as to suggest that each form has its own inner light. This effect he calls luminosity and is contrasted with the use of colour to represent reflected light or light used as a source of illumination. Finally, the total organisation of colour must reveal itself all at once - 'in a fraction of a second'. Forms must not be 'groped for', and Stokes approvingly cites Vasari's comment that Giorgione's painting could be seized in 'una sola occhiata' (see fig. 1 above). The chromatic immediacy of forms is analogous to mass in architecture or relief, and it is this which ensures painting a primarily (but not exclusively) visual character.

With these characteristics Stokes was able to isolate the tradition of carving in painting which could now transcend the frontiers of chronology as well as of art form. The first painter who most fully realised the carving conception was Piero, followed by Brugel, Chardin and Cezanne. In later writings Stokes was to include de la Tour, Vermeer and Picasso.

As we have seen with architecture and sculpture, the carving aim is inseparable from that of modelling. In Stones Stokes deploys the terms largely in reference to the two main aspects of labour, isolatable in theory, but which are inseparable in practice. Although the carving mode is perceived to be the mode par excellence, modelling gradually gains in importance and stature. Indeed, Wollheim remarks that


what had in earlier books appeared as the lesser or the more negative tradition in art, the tradition of modelling, in which you produce an object which is very sharply or harshly differentiated internally and therefore doesn't stand apart from oneself quite so much, comes into its own in the later writings: it is increasingly celebrated in the notion of the enveloping character of art, the incantatory character of art.60.

However, to understand fully the way in which carving and modelling are linked to create a unity and value in aesthetic experience, I shall now look at the important way in which Kleinian concepts informed and enlarged Stokes's project and how, in the light of developments in the British School (especially through the work of Bion) he came to review his theory of modelling.

Stokes's urge to unite the concerns of psychology, history together with the formal aspects of art into a coherent critical discourse, developed into an ambitious project which culminated in the publication of six small volumes by the Tavistock Press, between 1955 and 1967.61. These books undertook, both in general and in many points of art-historical detail, to correlate the two modes or processes, the 'two main aspects of labour', which Stokes had come to think of as all-important within the making of art, with the two psychic attitudes or 'positions', the two fundamental kinds of relationship that Klein and her colleagues had come to think of as underpinning our intellectual and emotional development.

Stokes's overall task was to link the carving mode with the tendency to relate to whole-objects, and the modelling mode with those relationships which emphasised part-objects.62. Of course, within the part of psychoanalytic theory to which Stokes appealed, the two psychic attitudes initially belong to a developmental or historical account of individual psychic development, i.e. the infant passes through a stage of part-object relating and gradually progresses to whole-object perception. But, as we have seen, Klein stressed that although these are historical stages, they are potentially active within us throughout our lives. They refer to existential states - modes of perception and behaviour. Indeed, this collaborated very well with Stokes's ever-increasing awareness that the carving and the modelling modes were never to be found in isolation.

In correlating the two kinds of relationship with the two kinds of art Stokes was centrally concerned to show how each kind of art was adapted to symbolise the benign aspect of the relationship it mirrors, or its characteristic satisfactions. But he was also to insist that the darker aspect of the relationship was not ignored. So the modelling mode celebrates the oceanic feeling, the 'invitation in art' to merge, but it also finds a place for the splitting and the attacks that accompany it. The carving mode celebrates the self-sufficiency of the whole object, but there is also a place for depression, the painful recognition of the otherness of objects.

It is not hard to see the suitability of the carving mode to express what Stokes terms 'the joyful recognition of self-sufficient objects'. It all depends on those qualities already outlined in earlier writings: the love of the material, the attention to texture and the reciprocity of form, the use of inner light and the even progression of surfaces.

It is the suitability of modelling to the part-object relationship that proved more difficult for Stokes to work out fully, but its perception is crucial to an understanding of the new value that he eventually came to assign to modelling. This re-evaluation of the concept came out of a prolonged and intensive study of certain great works, which seemed to have epitomised the essence of this activity. Those artists he turned to were Michelangelo, Turner, Monet and much later, Rembrandt. Stokes not only re-assessed the value of modelling, but gained a deeper sense of how both modes are implicated from the very start.

In The Invitation in Art (1965) Stokes develops the notion of modelling to include a number of aspects which he had tended to regard as less wholesome than those of their carving counterparts. Central to this new theory is an aspect that he calls the 'pull', the 'envelopment factor', the 'incantatory process', and canonically 'the invitation in art'. Most of us are familiar with the way in which art has the capacity to take us out of ourselves, to pull us into them. Certain kinds of subject matter tend to do this - depictions of reverie, and elemental scenes, for example - but Stokes also looked at how form was able to facilitate this effect. He formulated how the pull is heightened just when the form is least integrated, when the surfaced has been greatly attacked, with heavy emphasis on depth, harshest chiaroscuro. Stokes also distinguished between the modeller's compulsion to create a manic kind of unity through form and/or subject-matter, and the kind of harmonious integration characteristic of the carver.

The new theory of modelling takes into account the work of Klein's colleagues in the British School, pioneered by those as Bion (1962). His work increasingly emphasised the communicative aspects of projective identification and its role in symbol-formation. Projective identification is what Klein had regarded as an essentially depleting defence mechanism, involving omnipotent phantasies of manic fusion with the part-object, thought to be inimical to the forces of creativity.

As we shall see in the following Chapter, Bion was to show how this mechanism of projective identification (via the 'container-contained' relationship) establishes a vital link between the mother's unconscious and that of her infant, without which there could be no development of the thinking apparatus, no ability to learn from experience, and certainly no capacity for empathetic and imaginative identification - possibly essential aspects of artistic activity and the aesthetic encounter.

Chapter four will show how the work of Bion and his close colleague and pupil, Donald Meltzer, has greatly enhanced Kleinian theory and has thus revised the traditional Kleinian approach to art and creativity. As we have seen in this chapter, Segal and Stokes did not differentiate between creativity (reparation) and the aesthetic sense: they regarded both as arising from the a successful working-through of the depressive position. However, as we shall see, Bion (1970) and Meltzer (1988) emphasise that the capacity for aesthetic experience (which they regard as inseparable from the evolution of truth and the moral sense) is innate. This means that rather than being an outcome of the depressive position, the aesthetic capacity itself precipitates the movement from the fragmentation of the paranoid-schizoid position, to the recognition of whole objects in the depressive position.63.

As we shall see, their work has been of great import not just for the approach to aesthetics and creativity, but also for the nature of critical practice itself.


1. Other clinicians, such as John Rickman, Ronald Fairbairn, Paula Heimann, and Ella Sharpe, were early contributors to the development of a British School aesthetic, deploying both Freudian and Klein's insights. Rickman (1940) and Fairbairn (1937) focused on the formal aspects of art and the nature of aesthetic experience; Heimann (1942) looked at the 'problem' of creativity and sublimation; Sharpe (1930, 1935) examined the contrasts between artistic and scientific creativity, and the role of libidinal experience in creative development. In all these writers, there is an emphasis on the formal aspects of art and the non-neurotic aspects of creative thinking, as opposed to a focus on more orthodox themes, such as symbolic content-analysis, pathography, and the tendency to view creative activity as maladaptive (see the work of Rank and Sachs, for example). However, when Klein came to formulate her theory of the paranoid-schizoid position, a number of these thinkers distanced themselves from her, including Heimann and Sharpe.

2. Segal (1950, 1957), republished in Segal (1986).

3. Read to the Society in 1947, published in 1952, and again in M. Klein, P. Heimann, R. Money-Kyrle, eds. New Directions in Psychoanalysis (1955).

4. Segal (1952), in (1986), p. 186.

5. Ibid., p. 188.

6. 'Delusion and Artistic Creativity', (1974), in Segal (1986), pp. 207-216.

7. Ibid., p. 190.

8. Ibid., p. 191, my italics.

9. Ibid., p. 192. The genital aspect of creativity has also been emphasised by writers such as Stokes, Ehrenzweig (1967), and by 'post-Kleinians' such as Meltzer (1973).

10. Freud (1914), S.E. 13, p. 212

11. Segal (1986), p. 198.

12. H. Sachs, 'Beauty, Life and Death', American Imago, I (1940), pp. 81-133.

13. W. Pater, 'Leonardo Da Vinci', The Renaissance (Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 68, p.79.

14. Segal (1986), p.204. See also E. Jacques, 'Death and the Mid-life Crisis', International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46 (1965), pp. 502-514.

15. Segal (1986), p. 204.

16. R. Young, personal communication.

17. The analysis began in January 1930 until 1937. Analysis resumed for a short time in 1947 after the break-up of his first marriage to the painter, Margaret Mellis.

18. 'Adrian Stokes 1902-1972', a special supplement of PN Review, 15, vol. 7, no. 1, (1980), p. 31.

19. With All The Views: the collected poems of Adrian Stokes, ed. P. Robinson (Carcanet, 1981). Since Stokes's death in 1972, there have been a number of contributions published relating to Stokes's work, which, together with the publishing of The Critical Writings (1978), and a retrospective exhibition of his paintings at the Serpentine Gallery in 1982, have gone a long way to securing Stokes's reputation as a significant 'critic of our time' (Wollheim). Despite the present preoccupation with deconstructive and postmodernist critical stances, a number of respected scholars and thinkers (S. Bann, R. Wollheim, D. Carrier, A. Forge, L. Gowing, E. Rhode, for example), have contributed a significant number of commentaries about his theory and style. However, there is still a quite large number who have not encountered Stokes's work. This is unfortunate in the light of his relevance to our present time: for instance, his preoccupation with the growing impoverishment of our environment, which he found increasingly alienating, possibly even sanity-threatening.

20. Rhode finds the first two books, The Thread of Ariadne (1925) and Sunrise in the West (1926), 'incoherent to the point of being unintelligible', compared to Stokes's more systematic and evaluative method in The Quattro Cento (1932). ('Memories of Adrian Stokes', The Listener, vol. 90, no. 2333 (13 Dec., 1973), p. 813.)

21. For example, Wollheim writes that, 'for him, the theory of art, the experience of art, came to form an indissoluble triad ... manifesting ... "identity in difference".' (PN Review, 15, no. 1 (1980), p. 31, my italics). In an illuminating article, D. Carrier examines Stokes's 'theory' of art with regard to the aesthetics of Gombrich, Goodman and Wollheim: see his 'Adrian Stokes and the Theory of Painting', British Journal of. Aesthetics, vol. 13, no. 2 (1973), pp. 133-145.

22. For a detailed account of Stokes and the tradition of aesthetic criticism, see R. Read, 'The Evocative Genre of Art Criticism: a study of Descriptive Prose in the Works of Hazlitt, Ruskin, Pater and Stokes' (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Reading, 1981). See also S. Bann, 'The Case for Stokes (and Pater)', PN Review, vol. 6, no. 1 (1978) and 'Adrian Stokes: a supplement', op. cit.

23. Cf. H. Bloom's The Anxiety of Influence, a Freudian analysis of the artist's oedipal struggle with tradition. It helps to illuminate Stokes's grappling with his precursors, Ruskin , Pater, and perhaps also Freud.

24. Quoted in S. Bann, 'Adrian Stokes: English Aesthetic Criticism under the Impact of Psychoanalysis', in Freud and Exile, eds., E. Timms and Segal (London, 1988), p. 138.

25. See 'Adrian Stokes, a retrospective (Arts Council , 1982), p. 52.

26. For example, Stokes writes in Stones of Rimini, that the 'Sigismondo Cantos of Ezra Pound have long inspired me', The Critical Writings of Adrian Stokes (hereafter abbreviated to CWS), 3 vols. (1978), vol. I, p. 189. For one of few accounts of the relationship between the two men, see P. Smith, 'Adrian Stokes and Ezra Pound', in 'Adrian Stokes 1902-1972 : a supplement', op. cit., p. 51.

27. R. Wollheim, On Art and the Mind, (1974), p. 317. For the main biographical details of Stokes's life, see 'Adrian Stokes, a retrospective' (1982), pp. 51-58.

28. 'Painting, Giorgione and Barbaro', Criterion, vol. 9 (1930), p. 491. For a later, revised version see 'Giorgione's "Tempesta"' (1945), in CWS, vol. II, p. 127.

29. 'Memories of Adrian Stokes', from The Listener, vol. 90 (1973), p. 813.

30. Criterion, vol. 11 (1932 - 33), p. 527, p. 530.

31. 'Memories of Adrian Stokes', op. cit., p. 815.

32. Living in Ticino', Art and Literature (March, 1964), pp. 232-238

33. CWS, vol. II, p. 138.

34. D. Sylvester, 'All At Once', a review of Stokes's Three Essays on the Painting of Our Time, Statesman ( 11 August 1961).

35. 'Memories of Adrian Stokes', op. cit., p. 815. The Tavistock Press, specialising in psychoanalytic literature, agreed to publish his later work.

36. Adrian Stokes: a retrospective, p. 8.

37. It was also known as the Imago Society and aimed to discuss areas of mutual interest from a Kleinian perspective. Membership was open to both practitioners as well as non-practitioners who had experience of analysis. Members included: Richard Wollheim, Donald Meltzer, Wilfred Bion, Roger Money-Kyrle, J.O. Wisdom, Stuart Hampshire. The Group was dissolved in 1972 but has since re-formed as The New Imago Group, with D. Meltzer, E. Rhode, A. Hyatt-Williams, and M. Waddell.

38. Papers include: 'Listening to Clichés and Individual Words'; 'Psycho-Analytic Reflections on the Development of Ball Games, particularly Cricket'; 'On Being Taken out of Oneself'; 'Primary Process, Thinking and Art'; 'Psycho-Analysis and Our Culture'. These appear in A Game That Must Be Lost (Carcanet, 1973). The dialogue with Meltzer appears in CWS, vol. III, pp. 219-235.

39. In particular, see Hazlitt's scattered references to an idealised childhood in Table Talk; the early chapter of Ruskin's Praeterita; and Pater's curious semi-autobiographical essay , 'The Child in the House'.

40. See S. Bann, in Timms and Segal, eds., Freud In Exile (1988), p. 136.

41. For example, compare the art criticicm of P. Fuller, whose work will be explored in chapter 7, section one below. He has been criticized by Wright (1984, p. 92) for validating his interpretations by 'freely quoting from a wide range of texts of the object-relations school, combining them to suit his purposes'. This rather omnipotent use of psychoanalytic theory is very different from Stokes's method, which is perhaps more truly 'psychoanalytic' in the sense of that it embraces a a multiplicity of resonances, layers and meanings;, a kind of writing that is not 'about' psychoanalysis in any mundane sense, but is informed by its spirit.

42. I have found Wollheim's elucidation of Stokes's theoretical development particularly useful for the following discussion. In particular see 'Adrian Stokes: critic, painter, poet', PN Review, 15, vol. 7, no.1 (1980), pp. 31-37, and 'Adrian Stokes', in Wollheim (1974).

43. The late nineteenth-century art historian, Wölfflin based his classical work, The Principles of Art History, on the interplay between a series of opposing elements of perception, or 'five categories of beholding': the linear v the painterly; Renaissance v Baroque; 'open' (atectonic) v 'closed' (tectonic) form; absolute clarity v relative clarity; multiple v uniform unity. Wolfllin's approach was concerned with form; he adopted a positivist methodology which implicitly critiqued the Burkhardtian approach which regarded art objects as the expression of an age. Wölfflin, however, was keen to isolate the cultural ethos and the visual tradition from any sense of the artistic personality.

44. However, although Stokes first emphasised the carving approach as being the sine qua non of artistic authenticity in Stones of Rimini (1935) and Colour and Form (1937), Art and Science (1949), we will see that his later writings, The Invitation in Art (1965), for example, recognise more fully the positive aspects of the modelling experience; thus he revises some of his earlier, less favourable, views concerning the work of 'modellers' such as Michelangelo.

45. As the subtitle of the book suggests, Stokes is writing 'a different conception' of the Italian Renaissance, indeed, what turns out to be an essentially spatial history of art. His own term 'Quattro Cento' designates a certain kind of artistic activity that transcends temporal boundaries; it does not refer to a specific historical moment , as does the original word, 'Quattrocento'. Interestingly, the onomatopoeic quality of the word 'Quattro Cento' itself suggests calm proportion, and equality of stress, values which are central to the spirit of Quattro Cento art.

46. CWS, I, p. 73, my italics.

47. Ibid., p.133.

48. Ibid., p.134.

49. Ibid., p.135.

50. Ehrenzweig (1949, p. 98) makes a similar point that the 'introduction of perspective into painting was not a cool and rational discovery of a more 'correct' and realistic representation', and that through the 'distortions of perspective', the 'terrible mutilations to the human body' must have produced great emotional shock on. contemporaries.' He believes that the 'double meaning' of perspective must have been more apparent for the Renaissance artists - its 'surface' meaning was the triumph of a scientific world-view; its deeper meaning expressed the ambiguity of the unconscious mind, based on corporeal phantasies. Today, however, perspective has been more or less fully 'rationalised' as the correct representation of the world.

51. CWS, I, p. 230, my italics.

52. Ibid., pp. 247-8.

53. Ibid., p. 235.

54. Cf. Hinshelwood's 'traditional' Kleinian critique of Winnicott's theory of creativity, where 'the creation of phantasies of an omnipotent kind ... is not part of aesthetic appreciation or endeavour. The latter comes from the creation of a specific kind of unconscious phantasy, the phantasy of creating and recreating (reparation) which no longer has omnipotent qualities. I think this is an important distinction: the creation of phantasies (in both Klein and Winnicott) and the phantasies of creativity (Klein only)'. (Personal communication, 12/6/90.)

55. Ibid., p.236.

56. Ibid., p.237.

57. Ibid., p.238.

58. Ibid., p.247.

59. CWS, II, p. 47. As we shall see in chapter seven below, Wollheim develops Stokes's account and suggests that the use of near-complementaries has a 'special binding effect' which helps to secure the sense of corporeality in painting.

60. 'Memories of Adrian Stokes', The Listener, vol. 90, no. 2333 (Dec. 13 1973), p. 815.

61. In order of publication these are: Michelangelo (1955), Greek Culture and the Ego (1958), Three Essays on the Painting of Our Time (1961), Painting and the Inner World (1963), The Invitation in Art (1966), and Reflections on the Nude (1967). All are republished in CWS, III.

62. To recap briefly: the two fundamental object-relationships that Klein and her co-workers described were the 'paranoid-schizoid' and the 'depressive positions'. The first of these psychic attitudes is one in which relations to part-objects, or objects not felt to be wholly independent of the individual, dominate. The second is one in which relations to whole objects, or objects experienced as independent, self-sufficient and separate, are ascendant.

63. In Dream Phantasy and Art (1991) Segal has not changed her orthodox Kleinian stance, nor does she take into account Donald Meltzer's contributions to aesthetics. Perhaps this is not really surprising, since Meltzer is no longer an official member of the British Psychoanalytic Society, and (according to Professor R. Young) is regarded by traditional Kleinians as somewhat of a controversial, 'Flying Dutchman' figure.



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