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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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‘Public Money is Private Money’: Paying for the Arts in the 1930s

‘Public Money is Private Money’: Paying for the Arts in the 1930s

(p.139) Chapter IV ‘Public Money is Private Money’: Paying for the Arts in the 1930s
Wyndham Lewis's Cultural Criticism and the Infrastructures of Patronage

Nathan O'Donnell

Liverpool University Press

This chapter considers developments in Lewis’s criticism of the 1930s, in particular his writing on patronage and the economic status of the artist, during an era of reduced opportunities for artists in England. In a sequence of essays published in 1934-5, written in response to a series of exhibitions of ‘modern’ interior and furniture design, and in the editorial materials for the 1938 edition of his collected writings on art, Lewis assessed the place of machine aesthetics in poetry and painting. In these texts, Lewis asked probing questions about how modern art was being evaluated, pointing to what he saw as the failure of the state to foster and protect art from the irresponsible and unaccountable demands of commercial interests, with artists (in the absence of any state support) increasingly operating as advertisers for corporations. Here Lewis made clear some of the modifications in his thinking, his increasingly inclination toward state intervention, and his continued opposition to the commercial imperatives of what he calls the ‘Bankers Olympia’ of contemporary capitalism, to which, in his view, the artists of the international style were openly and readily capitulating.

Keywords:   Patronage, Art criticism, 1930s, The Machine Age, Surrealism, Wyndham Lewis the Artist: From Blast to Burlington House, British art, Amateurism

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