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Wyndham Lewis's Cultural Criticism and the Infrastructures of Patronage$
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Nathan O'Donnell

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789621662

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789621662.001.0001

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Professionals and Amateurs

Professionals and Amateurs

Bloomsbury, Blast, and The Caliph’s Design

(p.17) Chapter I Professionals and Amateurs
Wyndham Lewis's Cultural Criticism and the Infrastructures of Patronage

Nathan O'Donnell

Liverpool University Press

This chapter takes, as its point of departure, the historical detail of the famous 1913 split between Lewis and the Omega Workshops, used here as a lens for considering the professionalisation of the arts in early twentieth-century England. Drawing upon the sociology of the professions in the early twentieth century, the chapter explores the terms ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ underwent a major shift at this time, with the role of the professional – artist or otherwise – becoming reoriented around notions of expertise, specialisation, and public service. This ‘professional turn’ involved simultaneous adaptation and resistance to increasingly powerful market forces. Lewis’s work in response to Bloomsbury is examined in this light. Blast is explored, in this context, for its proto-professional discourse; while The Caliph’s Designis read as a significant professionalist manifeso, delineating a body of esoteric specialist knowledge as well as a professional mythology for the practising artist. Lewis aggressively defined a (public-spirited, transparent, dogmatic) Vorticism as against the (domestic, private, conciliatory and liberal) amateurism of the Omega Workshops, positioning himself as a ‘pioneer’ professional, of a type that have historically, in different ways, laid the groundwork for the reorganisation of their professional fields.

Keywords:   Blast, The Caliph’s Design, Bloomsbury, Amateurism, Professionalism, The Omega Workshops, Post-Impressionism, Vorticism

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