The Demented, the Demonic, and the Drunkard
Edgar Wind’s Anarchic Art Theory
At nine in the evening of 13th November 1960, a curious suggestion echoed through British households. A cynical German-accented voice on the radio warned its audience that if someone truly wished for a peaceful and joyful life, it would be highly advisable to remove one’s paintings, sculptures, and novels from the house. “Well”, said a hypothetical listener, “perhaps it would be better to get rid of the radio so as not to have to listen to this iconoclastic gibberish!” After all, what would be the harm in a Renaissance print hanging on the wall? A Degas-like porcelain statuette sitting atop the dresser? Or the venerable Homer gathering dust on the shelf? This kind of rabble-rousing nonsense, broadcast by the reputable BBC and delivered in an exotic intonation, affronted fundamental values, values rooted in concepts such as Art and Culture, Culture and Reason, Reason and Civilization. These were interdependent ideas, and positively so. This was common sense at the time.
The man on the radio, the German art historian Edgar Wind, thought just the opposite. His common sense would say that art and the polity are in perennial conflict, that imagination and reason do their best in an antipodal struggle, and that anything worth calling civilization emerges only when these conflicting forces achieve some kind of harmonic synthesis (or dynamic stasis). In Wind’s eyes, there is no good art without some measure of spiritual conflict, often imbued to the art by a kind of dramatic wager between the artist and its public. He knew well that the lunatic painter, the possessed sculptor, and the bohemian writer were but false fronts — sometimes reified, often romanticized — for a venomous process that was prone to destroy all civilizational barriers if left unchecked. And yet, society needed such concentrated poisons, such anarchist ferments, in order to remain healthy, pliable, self-conscious. For the purpose of exposing such ideas, the BBC gave Wind the prestigious Reith Lectures as a rostrum. The Reith Lectures constituted a series of annual radio lectures, began in 1948, delivered by leading intellectuals on a contemporary topic of their expertise (on the lectures, see Takaes 2019, 4-7).
Wind’s main thesis, delivered in an impish tone, was a radical one: contemporary art was so well received in post-war Europe because the whole of artistic experience — production and reception — had become marginal, pushed to the outer rims of human experience by a multifactorial centrifugal drive that lionizes objective reality while belittling subjective propensities. Art had become ephemeral, a bourgeois pastime that was to be sheepishly celebrated for its eidoloclastic vainglory and not for its dangerous capacity for upheaval. In six lectures, Wind addressed different aspects of this centrifugation of the arts, criticizing contemporary artistic complacency, the many aseptic strands of aestheticism and connoisseurship that were in vogue, the great epistemological divide between the human and natural sciences, the artist’s solipsistic withdrawal from society post-Romanticism, and the growing encroachment of mechanization and technocracy on the inner life. Wind titled his Reith Lectures Art and Anarchy — a quizzical, provocative move.
The titular prominence of ‘anarchy’ notwithstanding — Wind rarely uses the term in the text — does not define it all, nor discusses its meaning vis-à-vis socio-political theories (i.e., anarchism). Except for a few brief mentions in his Nachlass at Oxford, there is little understanding of why Wind chose such a contentious term for the title of his critique of modern art. In response to this pointed silence surrounding Wind’s word choice, the aims of this paper are to provide an overview of the history of the publishing of Art and Anarchy and its translations, paying particular attention to what archival data reveal regarding the overall discussion (i); assess the socio-cultural context in which Art and Anarchy was produced, taking stock of semantic changes regarding ‘anarchy’ from the late seventeenth to mid-twentieth centuries (ii); evaluate the semantic range of ‘anarchy’ vis-à-vis Wind’s theory of art (iii). It is by locating the implications of the term anarchy in this way, that the voice on the radio, which once upset popular notions of art, renews its iconoclastic vim.
I. Art and Anarchy (1963) and its Translations
Despite the considerable public and critical attention generated by the 1960 Reith Lectures, it took Wind three years to publish Art and Anarchy as a book (for the reception of Wind’s Reith Lectures, see Lloyd-Jones 1993, xxxiv). When it finally came out in 1963, published by Faber and Faber, the original broadcast text was supplemented by about 5,750 words and a sprawling chapter of endnotes. This chapter, according to one of the book’s reviewers, Sir Herbert Read, could “be read independently, as a series of short but scintillating essays on an almost bewildering variety of subjects” (Read 1963). Wind, however, never stopped tinkering with Art and Anarchy, to the dismay of his wife, Margaret, who stated after his death that the book had taken his attention away from more serious, historical endeavors (M. Wind, note in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 95, file 2). When a second edition came out in 1969 by Random House, Wind had made more revisions and included a few lengthy endnotes (totaling around 5,000 words), which he attributed to the “developments and discoveries of the last four years” (E. Wind to A. Green, June 8, 1967).
In the mid-to-late sixties, Wind further busied himself by strictly coordinating the translations of the book. In 1965, a Japanese edition was published, followed in 1967 by a Spanish one and, in 1968, by the Italian version by Adelphi — which pleased the author immensely (M. Wind to L. Foà, February 9, 1973). However, Wind was far from satisfied with the attempts to translate Art and Anarchy into his native German, a task which went unfulfilled in his lifetime. In fact, from 1961 to 1967, Wind refused the work of three translators — to the exasperation of his German editors — until he finally decided to take the matter into his own hands. Until his death in 1971, he worked intermittently on the translation, making further changes in the main text and endnotes that are, to this day, unique to the German version (it was finally published in 1979 by Suhrkamp). Margaret would later excuse her husband’s editorial immoderation and finickiness by stating that he “never regarded a book as a fossil. Every new edition contained alterations and additions” (M. Wind to C. Röthlingshöfer, October 30, 1972). She supervised the translations after Wind's death with equal if not greater zeal. Following difficult and lengthy negotiations, Art and Anarchy was subsequently published in Dutch in 1973, Romanian in 1979, French in 1988, and Hungarian in 1990 (There were failed attempts in the 1970s and 1980s to translate the book into Czech and Greek).
A study of the documents concerning the editorial history of Art and Anarchy reveals something more than the ebb and flow of interest in the 1960 Reith Lectures among the general public or the difficulties of its author with editors and translators. We learn, for example, that Wind imposed as a rule that he and his literary executors alone had the final say in the translations based on the editorial proofs; concerning languages outside their reading knowledge, they also had the right to appoint a trained ad hoc reviewer of their trust (see E. Wind to G. de la Mare, October 25, 1963; see also G. de la Mare to E. Wind, November 7, 1963). To this end, Wind appointed in December 1963 the Oxonian Japanologist Geoffrey Bownas to read through the Japanese translation (E. Wind to S. Takashina, December 14, 1963. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 101, file 1; E. Wind to G. de la Mare, October 25, 1963). Therefore, we can assume that when Art and Anarchy was published by the Iwanami Shoten publishing house in 1965 as 芸術と狂気, which can roughly be re-translated into English as Art and Madness, the title had Wind’s full consent. Eleven years later, Modest Moriaru, editor-in-chief of Meridiane, a Romanian publishing house, proposed to Margaret Wind as a title Art and Passion instead of Art and Anarchy. In his letter, Moriaru noted that the former would be more suggestive to the Romanian readership while preserving the meaning of latter, arguing for an equivalence based “on the dichotomy art–ration, anarchy–passion” (M. Moriaru to M. Wind, July 16, 1976). She refused it, observing that such an option “flattens the meaning on the one hand and injects the wrong connotations on the other” (M. Wind to M. Moriaru, August 9, 1976). Following a consultation with Frank Barnett — a Tutor in French at Oxford known for his excellent command of the other Romance languages, Romanian especially — she counter-proposed Art and the Dæmon of the Imagination to Moriaru. Margaret observed that it was “a suggestive title which derives from certain passages in the book, it accurately represents the substances of the argument, and it is a title my husband himself might have chosen” (M. Wind to M. Moriaru, January 5, 1977). She may have been right since Wind does indeed mention “the dreaded demon of imagination” in Art and Anarchy — the lofty Latinized diphthong ‘æ’ was her choice though, not Wind’s (cf. Wind 1985, 8). After some back-and-forth, the Romanian edition ended up being published as Artă și anarhie.
Wind imposed such editorial safeguards because of previous predicaments in the publishing of Art and Anarchy. While individual chapters of the book had been published before by British, French, and US-American magazines, Wind fumed when, in 1964, “Harper’s Magazine” chose to rename without his consent the fifth and sixth chapter — originally titled The Mechanization of Art and Art and the Will, respectively — as The Long Battle Between Art and the Machine and Every Artist Needs a Hard-Boiled Patron (Wind 1964a; Wind 1964b). Even before that, on 12th December 1960, the BBC German Language Service broadcast Wind’s Reith Lectures as Kunst und Chaos instead of the more direct equivalent, Kunst und Anarchie. According to Lindley Fraser, head of the German Service, the word ‘Anarchie’ had “overtones in German not connected with ‘Anarchy’ in English” (L. Fraser to E. Wind, November 15, 1960. BBC Written Archives Centre [WAC], R51/936/1). It seems that Wind objected to this choice at the time, apparently to no avail (see B. Sullivan to E. Wind, November 15, 1960). Around three years later, however, he was much less accommodating. When Hansjörg Graf, the editor of the Kohlhammer publishing house, proposed once more Kunst und Chaos as the book’s title following a suggestion by the translator in charge, Ernest E. Stein, Wind refused it decisively. First, he observed that ‘Chaos’ would give the book an alien Nietzschean tone. Second, to the objection that ‘Anarchie’ had a strictly political connotation in German, he countered that the word had also been used aesthetically in the past by the likes of Bernhard Diebold and Friedrich Schlegel. Third, noting that both terms were current in Ancient Greek, English, and German — and were not synonyms in any of these languages — Wind stated that ‘anarchy’ allowed him to directly refer to the writings of Plato, Goethe, Burckhardt, and Baudelaire, while ‘chaos’ did not: the destructive powers these authors attributed to the artistic experience, he stated, were based on a kind of anarchical accuracy (‘Zielsicherheit’). He then concluded: “Nebenbei bemerkt: Selbst die politischen ‘Anarchisten’ waren keineswegs bestrebt, das ‘Chaos’ herbeizuführen” — “On a side note: the political anarchists themselves were in no way attempting to raise ‘chaos’” (E. Wind to H. Graf, July 24, 1963, author’s translation).
In a letter to the translator, Wind answered with diasporic bitterness to a previous objection that some examples in the book were all too British for a German readership to grasp:
Although you are right in reflecting on the fact that I was born in Germany, I have been obliged to spend thirty-four years of my life in American and English universities, which is the major part of my adult existence. Hence the Germans are hardly in a position to complain that many of my illustrations are Anglo-Saxon. I do not think one should change the style of the book from what it is – a text originally intended for English readers (E. Wind to E. E. Stein, June 22, 1963).
Wind was well-versed in the culture of the country, having produced in the 1930s and 1940s a series of articles on eighteenth-century English portraiture that were later lauded by Pope-Hennessy as “the only intelligent articles that had ever been written on [the subject]” (Pope-Hennessy 1991, 192). Wind was also well-acquainted with British audiences. At the time of the Reith Lectures, he was the first Chair of Art History at Oxford, a position he occupied since 1955. Famous for his overcrowded, dramatic lectures at the Playhouse Theater — whose teeming lines amazed the Oxonian newspapers as much as the multitude of parked bikes — Wind was then hailed as an academic rock star, able to draw crowds that mixed town and gown (see McConica 1998, 7; see also Hale 1959, 102; Annan 1999, 26; Bawtree 2015, 308). As observed in an article in 1960, he was the consummate lecture hall maestro, able to foresee and play with his audience’s expectations:
Edgar Wind has a large distinctive appearance, rather like a polished eagle on a country church lectern, and he has a voice to match, bland, drawn out and slightly menacing. Nothing is left to chance and the unfolding of his personality is as calculating as his lectures. Well-aware of the effect of his intelligence, he is not averse to backstairs manoeuvring, and his beaky face wreathes with smiles at the prospect of a coup (Maestro from the Playhouse, “Time and Tide” November 19, 1960).
Indeed, Wind’s ability to be carefully attuned to his audience’s moods, expectations, and fears is in full display in the opening lines of Art and Anarchy: “I hope that the word ‘anarchy’ in the title of these lectures does not suggest that I shall speak in defence of order. I shall not. A certain amount of turmoil and confusion is likely to call forth creative energies” (Wind 1985, 1). In this way, Wind anticipated that his middle-brow listeners would associate such term with unruly mobocracy, irrational incendiaries, and civilizational waning (for the fin-de-siècle pathological associations attached to the word ‘anarchy’, see Adams 2015, 49). He expected his public to presume that the terms existed in opposition — ‘art’ as a kind of bulwark against ‘anarchy’. Thus, Wind laid a trap by way of his pithy, binary title.
II. ‘Art’, ‘and’, ‘Anarchy’
On a syntactic level, Wind’s titular snare only works due to the polyvalence of the conjunction ‘and’. The magnitude of the problem may be properly gauged by an appeal to another authority. Here one is tempted to both echo and oppose Heidegger, who stated in Der Spruch des Anaximander that “[d]as καί zwischen δικην und τίσιν ist kein leeres nur anreihendes ‘und’. Es bedeutet die Wesensfolge” — “the καί between δίκην and τίσιν is no empty, simply sequential ‘and’. It signifies the essential succession” (Heidegger 1977, 361, author’s translation). It is hard to argue against Heidegger in his highly idiosyncratic interpretation of the Anaximander fragment and compelling to apply his analysis to the title of Wind’s book: does the succession of anarchy to art by way of the conjugation carry significant implications? Nevertheless, one could — should — make one wandering criticism disguised as questions: when is it that the conjunction ‘and’ is merely sequential and empty? Or, to better put it, is there something that is in itself meaningful about the emptiness of ‘and’? That is to say, can we detect in the polyvalent ways that ‘and’ articulates two terms a broader problem concerning conjugation and historically-accrued semantics?
Perhaps the additive, causal, progressive, correlative, or oppositional semantico-syntactic possibilities associated with the conjunction ‘and’ will become clearer under a macroscopic bibliographic perspective. From the late nineteenth century onward, several critical scholarly works were published with a titular ‘and’. It should be enough here to call to mind Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy (1869), Freud’s Totem und Tabu (1913), Heidegger’s own Sein und Zeit (1927), Sartre’s L’Être et le néant (1943), Popper’s The Open Society and its Enemies (1945), Russell’s Authority and the Individual (1949), Berlin’s The Hedgehog and the Fox (1953), Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization (1955), and Snow’s The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (1959). Moreover, around the time of Wind’s Reith Lectures, binary titles with ‘art’ in it were something of a fad, with the publishing of Read’s Art and Society and Maritain’s Art and Poetry in 1953, followed by Arnheim’s Art and Visual Perception (1954), Heckscher’s Art and Literature (1954), Myers’s Art and Civilization (1957), Gombrich’s Art and Illusion (1960), Huxley’s On Art and Artists (1960), and Greenberg’s Art and Culture (1961). In all these titles, the semantic polyvalence of the conjunction ‘and’ foreshadows a thesis. In some cases, it assists in the implicit reference to an older title but with an added semantic twist, thus imposing from the start an intertextual interpretation of the work (e.g., Eros and Civilization and Civilization and Its Discontents or L’Être et le néant and Sein und Zeit).
Wind’s Art and Anarchy sits somewhat uneasily within these lists. He knew personally or was at least intellectually well-acquainted with several of the authors mentioned. Wind notoriously hated Heidegger — whom he had the ‘displeasure’ of meeting in Freiburg in the early 1920s — and despised Sartre, deeming him a naïve French version of the German phenomenologist and, therefore, the unwitting follower of a monstrous philosophy (Wind 1946, 2-4; Bredekamp 1998, 207-22). Despite the evident similarities between Wind’s critique of modernity and Adorno’s, a meaningful silence lays between the two authors. Given a mildly negative review by Adorno of Wind’s essay on natural and human sciences for Cassirer’s Festschrift, it can be surmised that the former thought the latter tainted with a positivistic approach alien to the humanities; Wind, in turn, was most likely averse to Adorno’s gloomy, ex cathedra pronouncements about the arts (Wind 1936; Adorno 1937; on the making of Cassirer’s Festschrift, see generally Whitaker 2018, 86-90). Given Wind’s skepticism toward liberal democratic sanctimony, it is most likely that he scoffed at Popper, whose understanding of Plato he backhandedly dismissed in a letter to his colleague K.B. McFarlane. (E. Wind to K. B. McFarlane, November 1, 1963). And, for personal and intellectual reasons, Wind profoundly disliked Popper’s friend and mentee, Gombrich, having described the Austrian art historian in a letter to his wife in 1954 as “heavy, settled, and forlorn — like an overloaded freightship adrift without pilot” (E. Wind to M. Wind, December 6, 1954. Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 12, file 1). Years later, in 1971, Wind wrote a notoriously scathing review of Gombrich’s intellectual biography of Aby Warburg, a sort of Parthian shot before his death (Wind 1971). Wind probably did not think much of Greenberg, whose brand of impressionistic formalism Wind must have known well given his criticisms of Abstract Expressionism (Wind 1984, 84-85; Wind 1956, 277-278; Aulich 2000, 154). Furthermore, Wind judged Read’s anarchistic aesthetics and defense of modern art ludicrous at best, having once decried the latter’s Icon and Idea (1943) as a spineless “passionate manifesto” whose thesis was way beyond the philosophical ken of its author (Wind 1956, 277-278). A speculative inquiry into the reasons for choosing Art and Anarchy as the title for the 1960 Reith Lectures ought to consider this historical proximity to the works of Wind’s intellectual opponents. It may well be that Wind was riposting them, thus asserting his views in ironic contradistinction, a way of setting the argument straight with his contemporaries. His could well have been Jules Renard's epigram: “L’ironie ne dessèche pas; elle ne brûle que les mauvaises herbes” — “Irony does not scorch; it burns off nothing but the weeds” (Renard 1960, 558).
However, the irony in Art and Anarchy was perhaps more farsighted, intended as a century-late response to Matthew Arnold’s socio-pedagogical Culture and Anarchy (Takaes 2019, 5-7, 19). Writing at the apex of the Victorian era and responding to the growing turmoil of a fast-expanding British society, Arnold understood ‘culture’ and ‘anarchy’ as antipodal terms; in fact, he argued that rearing in highbrow culture — which, paraphrasing Swift, he defines as “sweetness and light” — was the last line of defense against lawlessness (Arnold 2006, 40-41, passim). The conjunction ‘and’ here is clearly oppositional: either we choose ‘culture’ or we fall into ‘anarchy’. The Oxonian Wind was probably keenly aware of Arnold’s work when it was his turn to address British society at large in the early 1960s. Moreover, he could have chosen Art and Anarchy for the title as a provocation, for the titular conjunction here is not oppositional, but connective. The fact that he admittedly wrote Art and Anarchy with the British reader in mind affirms the possibility that ‘art’ and ‘anarchy’ should, according to Wind, exist in a symbiotic relationship. Wind thus broadcast an unspoken question to the United Kingdom at large: does ‘art’ have something to do with ‘anarchy’ pace Arnold’s century-old musings?
By 1960, the Reith Lectures occupied a lofty position in British cultural and intellectual life as the epitome of BBC’s ambitions to broadcast innovative and substantial intellectual content (see Takaes 2019, 4). At the time, radio shows reached between 5 to 15 million people, with 24 million people tuning in to the radio in a single day. In 1960, there were 53 million people and 15 million households in the United Kingdom. Almost all the British households paid BBC’s license fee: around 11,5 million paid for radio and television and 3,5 million for radio only (Sound Radio Services 1962, 57-61). Therefore, it can be inferred that the 1960 Reith Lectures, broadcast during primetime on Sundays by the Home Service (and later rebroadcast by the Third Programme and transcribed in “The Listener”, a weekly magazine published by the BBC), would have reached a significant portion of the British population. Moreover, when considering the overall social environment of the reception of Art and Anarchy, further societal changes must also be considered. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, improved living conditions, a rise in weekly wages (which rose 25% from 1955 to 1960), and increasing consumption of household goods (including electrical appliances) meant the hypertrophy of domestic life, for which the radio was something of an altar (see generally Donnelly 2005, 19-34; Marwick 1996, 111-114; Scannell and Cardiff 1981, 162-168). Poverty in the United Kingdom seemed a thing of the past in the burgeoning consumerist society of the late 1950s. The Prime Minister at the time, Tory Harold Macmillan, notoriously remarked in 20th July 20 1957: “Indeed let us be frank about it — most of our people have never had it so good” (Macmillan 1957).
When choosing the 1960 Reith Lecturer in February of that year, the BBC producers had such epochal transformations in mind. They were fully cognizant that there was
excessive interest in the visual arts and in music at the present time with a certain parallel interest in poetry and literature. The impact of new media such as television, radio and the gramophone; the changing pattern of society and patronage; changes in national and local sentiment; the various anti-art movements which ha[d] been protesting against society since the first World War, create[d] a new bewilderment.
Therefore, the BBC producers favored “the problem of the Artist in Society” for the 1960 Reith Lectures. The producers also decided that the ideal candidate to address this issue was Wind, who had stolen “the popularity thunder of Sir Isaiah Berlin” at Oxford with his lectures that “contained witty, demolishing and constructive comments on the state of all the arts from assessing Picasso to praise of Auden and Tippett”(J. Green to R.E.L. Wellington, February 12, 1960; BBC Written Archives Centre [WAC], R51/926/6). It also spoke in Wind’s favor that he had lectured on the radio to the BBC before and was familiar with the medium (see Takaes 2019, 7; see also Thomas 2015, 125).
Wind was personally aware of large-scale societal transformations in the late 1950s, especially regarding the youth. In letters from the period, he observes that art history lectures were attracting massive audiences regardless of the lecturer. This phenomenon, he posited, was not restricted to Oxford, but ubiquitous across England. Professors of art history were “faced with an interest in the visual arts which has deeper causes, and which will be more permanent, than the personal influence of any individual lecturer” (E. Wind to C.H. Paterson, November 14, 1959; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 13, file 5). The students, Wind believed, “were starved for visual instruction” (E. Wind to W. M. Lowry, July 17, 1958; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 13, file 1). Furthermore, Wind was quite attuned to artistic developments, assiduous observer of modern art and regular attendee of contemporary exhibitions that he was. According to his wife, he had acquired drawings and prints by Klee, Braque, and Soulages, and “would have bought more if he could have” (M. Wind to B. Rundle, September 24, 1981). He was also a friend and mentor to contemporary artists, most famously to R.B. Kitaj. The artist, reminiscing about Wind, recalled having seen him quite often while studying at Oxford, going to all his lectures and classes and even to his home a few times; he was surprised when he ran into Wind years after, who then told him he had been following Kitaj’s progress as an artist. The comment took the painter aback: “He was such an Olympian figure, I just never thought that he would make time for any new art” (Livingstone 1985, 42, fn. 6; see Chaney 2013).
Conscious of the rhetoric of post-war civilizational progress and contemporary enthusiasm for the arts; mindful of society’s antithetical strands that seemed only superficially pacified into co-existence; sensitive of the role of the radio in the cozy domestic enclave, a bulwark against the outdoor menaces of civic life — cognizant of all these factors, Wind chose to disturb British private life in the opening salvo of his Reith Lectures with the declaration: “if it is the highest wish of a man to live undisturbed, he might be well advised to remove art from his household” (Wind 1985, 1). ‘Art’ had something to do with ‘anarchy’. However, it is not enough to say that as soon as we understand what ‘anarchy’ means, that we are able to grasp what Wind intended by his quizzical title. First, the presumption of terminological universality is easily dispelled both by the literature on anarchism and also by the philological confrontation with the realities of its use in the United Kingdom from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-twentieth centuries. Second, one must attend to the employment of ‘anarchy’ in the early 1960s and further contextual transformations.
The loaded connotative range of the term in the United Kingdom spanned political, literary, and aesthetic traditions. In its political sense, as a signifier of the absence of government (and often equated with disorder), the term in English dates back to the mid sixteenth century. (OED, s.v. ‘anarchy’). Owing to Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651), ‘anarchy’ acquired the connotation of a pre-political state of nature connected to savagery, confusion, and violence, which compounded to a crude epistemic framework (Hobbes, Leviathan, II.19.2, II. 31.1; see also Moloney, 2011). In the late 1660s, John Milton, in Paradise Lost, associated “eternal anarchy” with a chaotic and nocturnal realm brimming with war, confusion, and noise (Milton, Paradise Lost, 2.891-897). In his mock-heroic poem The Dunciad (1728-1743), Alexander Pope refers to the “great Anarch” in a vision of apocalyptical darkness (Pope, Dunciad, III.339-340), while Byron, in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812-1818), wrote of “imperial anarchs, doubling human woes!” (Byron 1826, 218). In Jeremy Bentham’s Plan of Parliamentary Reform in the Form of a Catechism (1817), the utilitarian philosopher sarcastically refers to the “monster of anarchy” to sneer at the legitimists, who conflated ‘democracy’ with ‘anarchy’ (Bentham 1843, 436). Just two years after the publication of Bentham’s text, in 1819, Percy Shelley wrote The Masque of Anarchy — a political poem penned in response to the Peterloo Massacre (it was published postmortem in 1832). Echoing St. John of Patmos, Shelley's ‘anarchy’ appears riding a blood-splashed white horse, “[l]ike Death in the Apocalypse” (Shelley 1832, 5; I owe many of the references to ‘anarchy’ to Paley 1991, 92). W.B. Yeats would use the same kind of apocalyptic overtones in his poem The Second Coming from 1919, a reflection on a post-war Europe afflicted by the 1918-1919 flu pandemic; in it we read: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” (Yeats 1920, 19-20). Fearing the rising tide of the democratic conversion of the ‘populace’, Matthew Arnold drew upon his literary precedents and saw in ‘anarchy’ the dark self of civilization in his Culture and Anarchy (Arnold 2006, 78).
By the late nineteenth century, however, the literary and theoretical achievements of the anarchists began to complicate the overall negative connotation of the term (while, at the same time, the use of bombings and assassinations in the 1890s crystallized the image of the subversive anarchist terrorist; Marshall 2010, ix). In 1886, after a few years in a French prison, the exiled Russian prince and anarchist Pyotr Kropotkin arrived in England, remaining in the country until his return to Russia in 1917. During this period, Kropotkin wrote several of his most important pamphlets and, despite the bad reputation of anarchists as savages and villains, the exiled Russian prince charmed British journalists with his intelligence and manners (Adams 2015, 26). Kropotkin’s intellectual heir in the United Kingdom was Herbert Read, who became an anarchist in the 1930s. A prominent art critic and theorist, Read postulated that an anarchist society — the consummation of a natural plan to be reached by imploding artificial social constraints — would lead to better artistic achievements. In other words, the goal of artists and the anarchists was for Read the same: the continuous employment of creative energies in opposition to crystallized systems of oppression (see Ward 2007). In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Read published a string of works on anarchism and cultural criticism, including Art and Society (1936), Poetry and Anarchism (1938), The Philosophy of Anarchism (1940), To Hell with Culture (1941), Education Through Art (1943), and The Politics of the Unpolitical (1943). To the dismay of British mainstream anarchism, Read was awarded a knighthood in 1953 for his intellectual contributions; a certain strand of ‘anarchy’ was embraced into the folds of the Establishment (on Read’s knighthood, see Adams 2015, 45-46, 120-3).
In 1948, Bertrand Russell, then a former radical pacifist, delivered the inaugural Reith Lectures in a series titled Authority and the Individual, a wide-ranging meditation on personal freedom vis-à-vis governmental rule. Russell posited ‘anarchy’ as the antipode of excessive state control, both of which were undesirable. However, by judging post-war governmental systems as unduly authoritarian, Russell argued that it was high time to balance the political tug of war with an emphasis on individual initiative (Russell 1995, 89-93). A scion of the British liberal tradition, the ideal balance between progress and social cohesion worried Russell greatly. However, when it was Wind's turn to deliver the Reith Lectures twelve years later, the art historian blew up Russell’s prudent middle way by asserting that a measure of “turmoil and confusion” — i.e., ‘anarchy’ — were healthy for the cultural welfare of a society (Wind 1985, 1). Seventeen years later, in front of the British Parliament — as a homage of sorts to the Queen’s Jubilee — Johnny Rotten famously shouted “I am an anti-Christ / I am an anarchist", the opening verses of the Sex Pistol's debut single, Anarchy in the UK. The term ‘anarchy’, from the monarchical heights of Hobbes's Leviathan to the plebeian sound and fury of working-class youths, had indeed come a long way, the lionized Bakhtinian carnival of the punks an extreme camp reaction to a political and cultural landscape that seemed shackled and hopeless (see generally Jones 2002). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Anarchy tour of 1976, led by the Sex Pistols, was transformative to a host of visual arts university students for whom the previous avant-garde rebellions were but a glorified aesthetic cul-de-sac wholly disconnected from socio-political engagemen (see Butt 2016, 60-61).
The relation between ‘anarchy’ and ‘art’, asserted by Read and embodied by the punks, dates back to the early theorists of the movement. In 1865, Proudhon famously defended Courbet in Du principe de l'art et de sa destination sociale, arguing in favor of the artist’s power to effect in art what the anarchist aimed to do in society (see Antiff 2007, 17-36). Other apostles of anarchism such as Bakunin and Kropotkin also advocated art’s revolutionary potential; the latter asserted that artists ought to produce works “at the service of the revolution” instead of decorating the “parlors of shop-keepers” (Kropotkin  1992, 52; Bakunin  1970, 57). Oscar Wilde, after reading Kropotkin and briefly converting to anarchism, wrote in The Soul of Man under Socialism (1891), that “[t]he form of government most suitable to the artist is no government at all” (Wilde 1912, 78).
However, as Wind pointed out in his letter to Hansjörg Graf, ‘art’ and ‘anarchy’ were also often employed in a sense not overtly related to political theory. Indeed, Friedrich Schlegel in Über das Studium der griechischen Poesie (1797) refers to “aesthetic anarchy” or “the anarchy […] in aesthetic theory or in the practice of artists” (Schlegel  1882, 90, 92, 117). A century later, Adolf von Hildebrand denounced in his Das Problem der Form in der bildenden Kunst (1893) “den Anarchisten in der Kunst” — “the anarchists in art” —, by which he meant those who skewed media specificity in favor of a symbolic language in dialogue with other artistic expressions (Hildebrand 1918, x). Henry Adams, in his quizzical third-person autobiography The Education of Henry Adams (1918), reflecting on Wagner’s Nibelungen and the fact that the composer’s Götterdämerung was perhaps better appreciated in New York and Paris instead of its native Bayreuth, argued in favor of those “vernal, sordid, vulgar” metropolises, for there society nursed “in the rottenness of its decay, certain anarchistic ferments, and thought them proof of art. Perhaps they were” (Adams 1999, 338). The Swiss theater critic Bernhard Diebold named his analysis of Expressionist plays in German-speaking countries Anarchie im Drama (1921). Also commenting on the Ringcycle, the French writer Henry Malherbe wrote in Richard Wagner révolutionnaire (1938) that the composer, “in a sickly overexcitement”, draws out “a kind of resounding breviary of anarchy” (“Dans une surexcitation maladive, il trace une sorte de retentissant bréviaire d’anarchie” Malherbe 1938, 27).
Wind quoted liberally from several of these sources and considered them vieux jeu (E. Wind to K.B. McFarlane, November 1, 1963). In his first Reith lecture, he stated:
It ought to be obvious by now that in connecting the word ‘art’ with the word ‘anarchy’ I was completely unoriginal. I merely continued to reflect on a thought which had occupied Plato, Goethe, Baudelaire and Burckhardt; and many other authors could be named, equally different from each other and equally close to the sources of art, who have made the same observation. (Wind  1985, 6).
By explicitly assigning politically loaded term to a lineage of unimpeachable intellectuals, Wind obliquely implies that, when considering the semantic range of ‘anarchy’ vis-à-vis ‘art’, a transhistorical value ought to be taken into consideration. Furthermore, Wind’s argument from authority argues for a re-alignment of historical Western art theory in opposition to aesthetics broadly construed on post-Kantian lines. It is a tricky rhetorical manoeuvre: the conscious self-effacing of one’s contemporary voice allows for tradition to speak, as it were (on the quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns in Wind’s Art and Anarchy, see Fehl 1998).
The hypotheses raised so far answer for us why Wind chose the title that he did, and how he arrived at that title — drawing, as he did, on a rich and trodden tradition. Nevertheless, the content of the title remains to be more fully excavated. We turn now to the interstitial space between the terms ‘art’ and ‘anarchy.’ In this case, the ‘and’ certainly does not imply a facile sameness between two concepts, for ‘art’ does not equal ‘anarchy’, nor vice versa. A semantic disjunction is implied here, so that the intended meaning of both terms is based on some level of similitude and difference — which are, in a sense, already present in the assonance of the a’s, the consonance of r's and n's. In this sense, the function of ‘and’ is interactional, so that ‘art’ and ‘anarchy’ co-modulate their semantic range through a cataphor-anaphor ratio.
Now, let us suppose that we vaguely understand what Wind meant by ‘art’, that it signified for him and his audience a wide range of highly creative, formally conceived expressions of human subjectivity made available to the senses through a panoply of media. If we assume as much, then the problem becomes the meaning of ‘anarchy’ and what it might reveal of art’s societal function. Are we to understand it as a socio-political term following the tradition of Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, and Malatesta? Or else, in a more abstract and etymologically-inflected manner, as the absence of a central jurisdiction or founding principle (ἀρχή)?
III. Wind and Politics
To a certain degree, the first question has already been answered by Wind in his letter to Graf, in which he clarifies that he meant ‘anarchy’ not in an ideological sense. There seems to be no reasons to doubt or disprove him on this point. However, the fact that Wind hints in his refusal at a robust philological awareness of the politico-ideological history of the term implies that we must take this negation seriously, that is, as inflecting the word’s choice. Such enlightened refusal raises the question of Wind’s familiarity with leftist literature and his political leanings (a topic rarely broached in his fortuna critica). This is a difficult topic. On the one hand, Wind strikes contemporary exegetes as a rather conservative figure. If we are to accept the zero degree of identity politics critique, then yes, Wind was a White Male European Upper Class classically trained scholar, who would often schmooze with international banking dynasties such as the Warburgs and the Rothschilds while lecturing at the Morgan Library or Dumbarton Oaks to the sound of pearled claps. Furthermore, Wind spent his life in a North Atlantic back-and-forth, having never set foot in the global south (despite being considered an Argentinian by the German authorities for much of his early life due to his father nationality). A Eurocentric worldview thus pervades his critiques to a degree that seems hopelessly biased to certain leftwing strands; indeed, a contemporary review of his Reith Lectures criticised the narrow geographical focus of his commentaries (see Holloway 1961, 255-257). On the other hand, a closer look at Wind’s biography reveals a strong opposition to totalitarian viewpoints and even what may be construed as a reticent — perhaps skeptical — leftism.
As a young man, Wind claimed to be related to the German radical Karl Sand on his father's side and, when he departed Berlin in 1922 to live in New York, partially because of the murder of Walter Rathenau in June (an event that perturbed him greatly), he went to live with his cousin Henry Moskowitz, a celebrated civil rights activist (see files in Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Wind 1, file 3 and 7). In 1932, as Privatdozentat the University of Hamburg, at a time when several faculty members were refusing to add their names to a students’ petition opposing the prison without trial of Carl von Ossietzky, Wind signed it immediately. He also suggested the students seek Panofsky and Bruno Snell, the former purportedly having signed the petition after seeing Wind's name on it while the latter refused, arguing that he did not know enough to take a public stand (see note by M. Wind; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 6, file 2). On more than one occasion during the years before and after the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, Wind sharply criticized German liberal philosophers for not fulfilling their intellectual obligations and refusing to take a stronger stand against the opposing ideology (see Wind 2001, 2; see also Wind 1934, v-xvii). Wind was a secular Jew and reputedly a proud one (see memorial note by C. Hardie in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 21, file 3). Nonetheless, he despised both the cause of Zionism and the figure of the “so-called liberal Jew who pursues a conciliatory policy”, while at the same time admitting that, though he detested “any orthodoxy which breeds intolerance”, he had found that he could “live in perfect peace with orthodox Jews as well as with atheists” (E. Wind to M. Schapiro, January 3, 1941; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 52, file 1).
His most profound hatred was reserved for the Nazi ideologues (see Wind 1946; see also Bredekamp 1998; Mille 1973, 65-66, 313-314). Having fled from Hamburg to London following the relocation of the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg in 1933 (see especially Schneider 2015), he chastised Nazi intelligentsia, naming them “hygienists” — “die Hygieniker” — in the introduction to the Bibliographie zum Nachleben der Antike (Wind 1934, xvi). Wind’s criticism was swiftly denounced by the newspaper of the Nazi party, the Völkischer Beobachter, in an article titled Juden und Emigranten machen deutsche Wissenschaft (Rasch 1935). Wind's political interventions in the early 1930s likely warranted in 1940 the inclusion of his name in the Sonderfahndungsliste GB, the secret list — later known as The Black Book — that compiled British residents to be immediately arrested following the Unternehmen Seelöwe, the planned invasion of the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany. (see note by M. Wind, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 6, file 2). Several other German-speaking art historians of Jewish heritage connected to the Warburg Library were also blacklisted, including Bing, Klibansky, Kurz, Rosenau, Saxl, and Wittkower; it is possible, therefore, that Wind was included in the list as a member of the group who facilitated the removal of the institution from Hamburg to London (Sonderfahndungsliste G.B., 1989, 20, 107, 111, 174, 182, 221, 222).
In the early 1940s, as a Professor at the University of Chicago associated to the Committee on Social Thought, Wind took the side of the pedagogically progressive President of the institution, Robert M. Hutchins, in the fratricidal war for pedagogical reform that then convulsed the university at the time (for Wind’s activities at the University of Chicago, see generally Zorach 2007). In the early 1950s, at that point teaching at the Smith College, Wind strongly opposed the intrusion of McCarthyism in academia. According to Isaiah Berlin, who visited Wind in Northampton, Massachusetts, in October 1953, there was an “undeclared war” between the administration, “which want[ed] people to testify before committees, and Edgar who [was] a very effective, subtle and formidable leader of the opposition” (Berlin 2009, 393).
The intrusion of McCarthyism into academia was, according to Wind, a very real threat; earlier that year, on 25th February an English professor of the Smith College named Robert Gorham Davis denounced to the Committee of Un-American Activities eleven faculty members from Harvard, claiming they had been part of a communist cell in the 1930s and 1940s (Heinemann 1965). Davis’ actions provoked a schism at the Smith College “between those who thought he should have talked, and those who thought he shouldn’t” (Berlin 2009, 393). According to Wind himself, who reminisced with some amusement later on about the events in a letter to the BBC producer Anna Kallin, “we have had, in our own midst, the usual traitor, the usual cowards, and the usual fools, but also (I am happy to say) a solid resistance that distinguishes some of the American professors from their German counterparts: for the situation became unpleasantly similar”. He added that he and his wife were living on the top floor of an eighteenth-century house, “which still continues to be called by a decreasing number of people ‘The Kremlin’” (E. Wind to Anna Kallin, July 17, 1954; Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Wind 46, file 2).
Also in 1953, at the height of the Red Scare — the year in which general Eisenhower became the 34th President of the United States and the Jewish Rosenberg couple was sentenced to death for espionage — Wind organised the symposium Art and Morals. He invited to the Smith College prominent left-wing intellectuals such as W.H. Auden, Archibald MacLeish, and Lionel Trilling to debate the role of arts between the antipodes of political engagement and aesthetic autonomy. Following an energetic exchange between Auden and Wind — the latter having censured the former for “beating around the burning bush” in his defense of political disengagement — the poet later dedicated his poem The Truest Poetry Is the Most Feigning to the art historian as a riposte (see generally Buschendorf 1998; see also Zorach 2007, 219-224).
In the 1950s, Wind also participated in events organized by the Congress for Cultural Freedom (Ccf), an organisation opposed to totalitarianism (i.e., the Ussr) whose overt aim was to publicise the intellectual and artistic achievements of liberal democracies. (The fact that the Ccf was secretly financed by the Cia was only revealed in 1966 by the New York Times; Coleman 1989, 219-220). One of the main events organized by the Ccf was L’oeuvre du XXe Siècle, an artistic festival held in Paris in 1952. In a session that also hosted luminaries such as Herbert Read and Lionello Venturi, Wind advanced in French a polemist critique of modern art titled Un art de caprice, de recherches, un art marginal, an intervention that is one of the bases for Art and Anarchy (Wind 1953). Wind began his talk with a provocation, asserting that the production and criticism of modern art lacked humor to the same extent that, paradoxically, humor was of its essence; modern art was, therefore, an art of capriccio. Wind advanced, in his talk, another thesis: the ‘capricious’ nature of modern art was masked by a veneer of pedantic solemnity and by a conception of art-making that aped scientific research, turning the artist into an alleged researcher and the studio in a mock laboratory. Therefore, the defining characteristic of modern art was its marginal position; superseded by the scientific paradigm, art no longer occupied the center of human experience as it did in the past. However, Wind did not understand such marginality as a problem in itself, for marginal perception can often be more accurate. He denounced artistic ephemerality and aestheticisation, twin phenomena that he understood to be closely associated with such centrifugation of the arts. Thus, Wind criticized not the role and position that the arts occupied in mid-twentieth-century Western culture, but rather their preferred mode of action. Unable to take radical advantage of this peripheral position to transform crystallised psycho-social structures, the arts wandered inane on the margins, celebrated for their ineffectual frivolity rather than censored for their shaping potency (as Plato feared them).
In his talk, Wind also problematised the syllogism that was the festival’s raison d 'être, namely, that the freedom of artistic forms espoused by the American-European avant-garde was analogous to political liberty and civilisational progress. In the debate that followed, Wind once more provoked such liberal sanctimony:
“Les Russes ont peur de la peinture et de la musique, et ils ont raison. Si l'on jouait, par exemple, trop de valses viennoises en Russie, l'esprit bourgeois pourrait renaître. L'art a un pouvoir énorme” — “The Russians are right to be afraid of painting and music. If, for example, they played too many Viennese waltzes in Russia, the bourgeois spirit could be reborn. Art has an enormous power” (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 10, file 3).
IV. Wind’s Sacred Fear
Wind’s outspoken defense of the power of art in 1952 could well have been merely a joke at the expense of the apostles of modern art, and therefore a red herring to contemporary exegetes. However, Wind held this position steadfastly throughout his intellectual career. From his inaugural lecture as Privatdozentat at the University of Hamburg in 1930, when he spoke about Plato’s artistic censorship (Wind 1932), to his inaugural lecture as an Oxonian don in 1957 on The Fallacy of Pure Art (for a transcript of Wind’s lecture, see Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 152, file 2; for a journalistic account of the lecture, see “The Oxford Magazine”, November 7, 1957, 82), Wind defended art's capacity to both affect and predict socio-political transformations, thus fully displaying his intellectual debt to Aby Warburg (on Wind’s Oxonian lecture, see generally Maniello 2016). The Fallacy of Pure Art was recorded by the BBC — the corporation planned to later broadcast it in the Third Programme — and became the basis for Art and Anarchy. In The Fallacy of Pure Art, Wind argued that artistic innovations antedated and foreshadowed analogous political changes, stylistic fractures and deviances often the harbingers of large-scale fractures in the social order. The value of academic art-historical research, therefore, was to provide a fine-tuned, extremely sensible instrument to historians, akin to a cultural seismograph. As Wind noticed in the lecture, “the political collapse which occurred in 1914, occurred in the arts at least [seven] years earlier”. That is, artworks such as Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907) not only predated but predicted the 1914-1918 war. The implication here is that, according to Wind, a society’s capacity to define its modes of rule is as artificial as that of its artistic productions; in fact, they both depend on a capacity to poietise that fundamentally shapes the limits of a given Umwelt. However, the space in which such creation occurs has no true beginning or pre-determined authoritative form. It is an-archical in the sense of being, rather paradoxically, the onset and doom of every constitution of form, be it artistical or political (see Gourgouris 2018). Wind, however, chose to conclude his lectures not by advancing a strong philosophical defense of the interconnected nature of art and the state, but with an argument from an authority that he knew would please and sway his Oxonian audience. He quoted Sir Joshua Reynolds, for whom “the character of a nation is, perhaps, more strongly marked by their taste in painting than in any other pursuit, although more considerable; as you may easier find which way the wind sits, by throwing up a straw in the air than any heavier substance” (Reynolds 1876, 294).
In 1948, at a symposium at Harvard on “Music and Criticism”, Wind espoused similar ideas. Stimulated by his opposition to a previous talk by the English novelist E.M. Forster, who had defended “a basic difference between the critical and the creative state of mind”, Wind turned the argument upside down in his presentation on The Critical Nature of a Work of Art (Forster 1948, 20; see Wind 1948). He proposed that the artist and the critic were but an external reification of a dual process internal to the artistic creation. The range of expressive possibilities at the disposal of the artists in a given time have been laid down by the achievements of the previous generations, to which contemporary artists serve as critics and curators; that is, either maintaining or renouncing, improving or deconstructing past attempts, but fundamentally bound to them, because they comprise the only language available in the dialectical process of a will to form. According to Wind, it is therefore “not surprising to find that the finished work embodies a critical canon” (Wind 1948, 57). Though he extolled the role of the artists as explorers of the dark regions of humanity’s conscience, Wind also feared the artists’ demiurgic excesses — their capacity to shape the imagination and, therefore, define people’s habits, desires, and worldviews. In the confession of this fear, Wind echoed Plato, for whom artistic censure was based on the suspicion that the artist was rather like the Pied Piper, a protean figure able to shape his public into whatever form he desired if his powers were to be fully exercised (Wind 1948, 66).
Wind consistently aligned his view of the arts with Plato’s (or, at least, with his interpretation of Plato). The Oxonian philosopher Stuart Hampshire, reminiscing a disputa he had with Wind after dinner one evening to a packed crowd on Plato’s banishment of the poets, wrote that:
[when it was Wind’s turn to speak, he] launched into the most brilliant disposition that I have heard him give, about the charlatanism and bohemianism and corruption of intellect which always surrounds the cultivation of the arts; of how one leans to ‘l' amor de l’apparenza’ and loses all sense of what is true and false, because showmanship plays such a large part: the drop of a pin could have been heard, and I think it was the most brilliant performance that I have heard in Oxford; one felt at the end that he disagree with Plato. (S. Hampshire to C. Hardie, January 20, 1972; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 21, file 3).
The same attitude appears in a letter Wind wrote to K.B. McFarlane in 1963 (the latter having objected to the former's interpretation of Plato in Art and Anarchy):
Say against Plato what you must, he understood the artistic process exceedingly well because he was intimately acquainted with it. […] the claim that “Plato's main concerns were political” turns the evidences of his writings upside down. Out of twenty-four dialogues, only three deal with politics at all; and even these are pervaded by his theory of the imagination. The reverse proposition does not hold (E. Wind to K.B. McFarlane, November 1, 1963).
According to the reminiscences of Wind’s widow, “Plato’s view of art preoccupied him always” (M. Wind to B. Rundle, September 24, 1981).
The post mortem reminiscences of Wind outline his character in a way that assists the interpretation of his work in unusual ways. According to his widow, Margaret, Wind “almost never allowed himself to be photographed” (M. Wind to A. Bottin, January 19, 1991; Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Wind 5, file 2; see also M. Wind to I. T. Lukic, August 6, 1997; Oxford, Bodleian Libraries, MS. Wind 101, file 4). Indeed, there are very few photographs of him, who once observed that such refusal was “a personal idiosyncrasy” of his (E. Wind to P. Ridz, October 16, 1960). When the BBC asked for portrait photographs for the publicity of the 1960 Reith Lectures, he counter-proposed with images germane to the subjects discussed in Art and Anarchy (E. Wind to P. Ridz, November 14, 1960). After some insistence, the corporation acquiesced to his wishes. On 10th November 1960, Wind’s Reith Lectures were publicised in “The Listener” with a photo of a bust of Plato (E. Wind, “The Listener” 64, November 10, 1960, 2). The Greek philosopher was Wind’s persona. This identification is implicitly acknowledged in Art and Anarchy; seemingly agreeing with Plato that artistic excellence goes hand in hand with political disintegration, Wind objected to the philanthropic-pedagogical assumption professed by “eminent and intelligent men […] that the widest possible diffusion of art can have only a benign and civilizing effect”; according to Wind, “the problem that preoccupied Plato all his life did not cross the threshold of their awareness” (Wind 1984, 7). The release of the “forces of imagination”, Wind argued, could have a terrible effect on the artist and society (Wind 1984, 6). The terms employed in Art and Anarchy to describe such “disruptive and capricious” forces are often ominous: they are a kind of evil genius, always on the prowl to attack, corrupt, enslave, or destroy the artist; a turbulent open sea, far from the safety of the shore; a ravishment untamable by conscious willpower; savages who find delight in grimacing idols; maenads and Dionysian madness (Wind 1984, 1-2, 24, 77-78, 93-95). These forces are dark, irrational, and immeasurable — they lurk in the abysses of human conscience, and can be managed or directed, but never wholly extinguished or tamed. Nor they should be, for “the magic of art is inseparable from its risks” (Wind 1984, 9).
Wind’s interpretation of Plato’s artistic censorship, which dates back to his inaugural lecture at Hamburg, is highly idiosyncratic (Wind 1932, 349-360). He refuses the traditional literature on the subject by dismissing the tenth book of The Republic in favor of the second and third book of Laws. At the beginning of Plato’s last, unfinished dialogue, we find an allegory of the soul much different from the one used in Phaedrus. In Laws, the soul is not portrayed as a celestial chariot pulled by two horses, one good and rational, the other bad and passionate; instead, it is a marionette pulled by the gods in the threshold between vice and virtue. All the strings answer to the principles of pleasure and pain, except for the one, a golden, central, and weak filament that responds to nous. The other strings must be so well adjusted that the marionette can obey the central one, whose pull is virtuous. If it does so, then the harmony of the soul, its eudaimonia, is safeguarded (Plat. Laws 643b-645c). These safeguards, however, are provisional; therefore, pragmatic political leaders should guarantee their citizens a continuous education in the principles of pleasure and pain. In favor of the former, they should teach the population how to inebriate themselves properly, under the guidance of a virtuous lawgiver; by doing so, they would acquire a spiritual reverence that allows them to indulge in such Dyonisian pleasures without behaving shamefully — that is, one should develop a ‘sacred fear’ that allows contact with ‘divine madness’, without which one gradually becomes insensitive (Pl., Laws 671a-c; cf. Wind 1948, 68). By following this protocol, wine would no longer be understood as a frenzy-inducing poison by which Dyonisus cursed humankind, but rather as a sacred gift, a medicine that produces “reverence in the soul, and health, and strength in the body” (Pl., Laws 672d). Wine drinking, however, is in Laws but an image to the artistic experience. It is discussed alongside legislation for activities such as dancing and singing, which are, according to the dialogue’s main interlocutor, “equivalent to education as a whole” (Pl., Laws 672e). The fact that Plato’s consummate legislator in Laws should also act as a kind of art critic and curator bespeaks to the masking of the artistic experience under the guise of alcohol policy (Pl., Laws 659d-660a, 672e-674c, 699a-671a).
What is implicit in this metaphor is that both experiences are double-edged phenomena. The poet should be banished from the city and wine forbidden if the state could find no way to control them, for their effects can be exalting and dignifying, but also corrupting and licentious, stimulating revolt and disobedience (Pl. Rep.398a; Pl. Laws 673a-674c). Reflecting on the dangers of modern enthusiasm for the arts, Wind sarcastically admonished that “[h]aving retained some of our Latin schooling and forgotten most of our Greek, we are always ready to acknowledge the genius in an artist without suspecting that this may be a daemon” (Wind 1948, 66). In this sense, the title Margaret Wind proposed to the Romanian editor could indeed have been chosen by her husband, as much as the Japanese one he actually approved, 芸術と狂気 (transliterated as Geijutsu to kyoki). What is particularly interesting in this case is that while the second term, 狂気, means ‘madness’ or ‘insanity’, its meaning is slightly different when, by retaining the first kanji, it is written as 狂喜 (also read as kyoki), which denotes ‘ecstasy’ or ‘rapture’. Both cases seem to signify an excessive disposition of the spirit which acts against and in favor of the formal ruling associated with ‘art’ (Japanese: 芸術, geijutsu). Under this light, Art and Anarchy shines forth as a kind of ‘temperate intemperance’. With this oxymoron, we may have reached Wind's final lesson: civilized individuals must be in timorous contact with the very forces that threaten to undo them, forces unearthed and managed by the likes of painters, sculptors, and poets. Artists as daemons, lunatics, and drunkards — artists as anarchists.
In lieu of a summarising, no-loose-ends conclusion, three brief, revolving codas:
(i) Art and the self: If the 1960s were indeed the ‘age of the self’ — of the self understood as something to be shaped, found, or transvalued via a panoply of tools, ranging from psychotherapy to consumerism — Wind insinuates in Art and Anarchy that the museum was the place in which visitors could begin to form a higher conception of their cultural being, thus crystallising a complacent view of themselves as visual consumers of high-end aesthetic commodities (on the 1960s as the ‘age of the self’, see Donnelly 2005, 195; see also Marwick 1999, 19-20). Wind points out, with some rhetorical alarm, that one could go to massive retrospectives of Picasso and Poussin in the same week without suffering any kind of spiritual backlash from seeing and enjoying such “incompatible artists” (Wind 1984, 8). An open-ended project of the self was not the aim of mid-century European artistic culture; contemporary museology depended on an epistemico-aesthetic framework in which artworks were fundamentally valued for immanent eudaemonic and formative qualities. Underlying these goals was the oft-elided assumption of a post-Enlightenment subjectivity, whose methodologically-inflected epistemic demands toward taxonomically construed art objects were but steppingstones in a teleological project of the liberal self. A self that was both existentially proteic and cost-averse, meaning that it both encouraged mutability while sacrificing its spiritual exuberance at the altar of the razor of Occam (Wind 1984, 87). Wind was aware that the artistic gaze could shape one's mind, but this was for him a double-edged sword: it can either reinforce a closed system of signification by translating only the exogenous noise which self-indulgently protracts a feeling of safety or accords to a heteronomous project, or it can provoke a systemic crisis, thus reframing one’s being in the world in accordance to the natural exuberant excesses of human’s subjective propensities (Wind 1984, 88; see also James 1956, 131-132). Wind feared that such crises were not available anymore to museumgoers in the mid-twentieth century. If they are still unavailable to us, that is another matter.
(ii) Sense of humor: When Wind stated in the letter to Hansjörg Graf that he much preferred Anarchie to the Nietzschean overtones of Chaos, it is quite possible that he was thinking about the celebrated aphorism in Thus Spoke Zarathustra: “man muss noch Chaos in sich haben, um eine tanzenden Stern gebären zu können” — “one must still have chaos in oneself in order to give birth to a dancing star”; Nietzsche, Also sprach Zarathustra I, v; for the English translation, Nietzsche 2006, 9). The reasons for this refusal of Nietzsche are perhaps twofold. On the one hand, Wind’s theory of art opposes the lionization of creative outbursts — which he deems “pre-artistic” — in favor of a prolonged inner and outer dialectical process that shapes and transfigures raw, pre-conceptual emotional content through conscious and analytic artistry (Wind 1984, 144-146, fn. 163). On the other hand, Wind probably opposed the grave overtones of Nietzsche’s fiery prophetic language. He was a rather well-humored scholar and considered a good dose of humor and self-deprecation essential to art and scholarship. In 1953, in an interview to the New York Times, Wind reproached modern religious art for being devoid of comicality (which, according to him, abounded in the Middle Ages and Renaissance). “Although great religious men like Maritain have a sense of humor”, he stated, “most artists have lost that magnificent sense of disproportion with the absolute” (Louchheim 1953). In 1971, in an addendum to Wind’s obituary, Father Vincent Turner remarked that “irreverence and an endless amusement at antics of solemnity were distinctive qualities of this so powerful mind. That names or reputations were well established meant nothing at all to him […] hilarity and gaiety (never far from the surface in Art and Anarchy) marked the mood in which he usually greeted the world” (V. Turner, “Professor Edgar Wind”, September 21, 1971; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 21, file 3). Two years after his death, another Oxonian colleague, Colin Hardie, recalled a conversation he had with the art historian after the publication of Wind’s Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance. Wind had then told Hardie that he did not wish to work with the Florentine Neoplatonists anymore, for “[t]hey took themselves too seriously”. According to Hardie, “Wind felt himself much more romano than toscano” (C. Hardie, “Edgar Wind – A Personal Impression”, April 2, 1973; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 21, file 3). The critique of modern art in Art and Anarchy should ideally be understood as a humorous speech. Indeed, it may be incomprehensible or prone to misunderstandings without the awareness of this lightheartedness — much more evident in the recording of the lectures than in the book itself.
(iii) Irony: Given that we have shown that Wind’s choice of Art and Anarchy was, in essence, ironic, it is perhaps rightful to ask for the location of the irony in the title itself. Where is it rendered visible as a sign that feigns one meaning only to deliver its opposite? ‘Nowhere’ is the — impossible — answer. The irony in Art and Anarchy lies not in ‘art’, ‘and’, or ‘anarchy’. It lies invisibly in the empty space between words, in the vacuity from which they emerge as codified symbols appearing as sensa by black ink marks on a white page. Albeit only metaphorically, this void is the shore where historically accrued meaning strands, affecting — differing, enabling, negating — the semantic appropriation enacted by each element in a sentence. However, since Western thinking is by and large prone to horror vacui, perhaps one should render the title of Wind’s work as Art|and|Anarchy, the vertical bars here signifying historical interpretation by way of the scholarly apparatuses often shunned by Heidegger as insufficient. Such bars are dikes made not to prevent outward flooding from historical flux. No. They are erected to prevent the rising tide of wild hermeneutics from rushing in. A kind of methodological sacred fear.
(My thanks to Michael Cole, Maurizio Ghelardi, Adrian Rifkin, Oliver Simons, and Elizabeth Sears for their assistance in writing this essay. I am also very grateful to Thalia von Moltke-Simms for her comments and for taming my foreign English.)
Appendix: Selected letters concerning Art and Anarchy chronologically arranged
We started this year by thinking of subjects for the Reith Lectures rather than speakers. The latter is the more direct and usual exercise but so many subjects have now been covered and the particular need to avoid Science made the first course seem appropriate. The last two Reith Lectures have dealt with astro-physics and biology so that everything pointed to the desirability of an Arts subject or one dealing with a moral or social issue.
Discussions among producers and with C.T.F., H.R.B., H.E.B. and some others favour first the problem of the Artist in Society. We recognise that there is excessive interest in the visual arts and in music at the present time with a certain parallel interest in poetry and literature. The impact of new media such as television, radio and the gramophone; the changing pattern of society and patronage; changes in national and local sentiment; the various anti-art movements which have been protesting against society since the first World War, create a new bewilderment. Although eclecticism in the arts and a failure of the audience to appreciate new ideas has always existed, seldom have painting and music aspired to so much private language and conflicting aim. This requires consideration both in the light of art history and in terms of what is new in aesthetic theory. It really adds up to a call for a latter day Ruskin but such a figure does not appear obviously on any horizon.
There is, however, one very strong candidate if the approach was slightly modified and likewise if the exhaustive treatment which has become something of a tradition with the Reith Lectures could be relaxed. Professor Edgar Wind, Professor of Art at Oxford is, we understand, at the moment gripping the attention of undergraduates and Senior Common Rooms alike in a quite remarkable way. He seems momentarily to have stolen the popularity thunder of Sir Isaiah Berlin. While primarily an authority on the Renaissance and completing a work on Michaelangelo, he recently arrested the attention of the Royal Institution with an appreciation of Leonardo as a scientist and he will be giving the Rede Lectures this May on Classicism. It is possible to envisage a series of three or four talks on Art and Life or even the Artist in Society at large which would give a new and vivid perspective to these matters, if not a full mid-century panorama. Wind also has catholic tastes which include music and poetry and a philosophic background. I am told that his lectures have contained witty, demolishing and constructive comments on the state of all the arts from assessing Picasso to praise of Auden and Tippett.
If there should be any doubt about Wind coming down into the market place sufficiently for the Home Service audience, there is the less original suggestion of Sir Kenneth Clark. While I find no body of support for him I do know that Clark values highly invitations from the Third Programme and that he would be likely to work on the subject. He has formidable public qualifications. Against him is the fact that he gave a fairly ordinary series of illustrated lectures on ATV in March, I958, under the title “Is Art Necessary?” Moreover he is primarily an administrator and a connoisseur of the visual arts alone rather than a general aesthetician. He might be considered to have too prosaic and practical an approach and to veer too much to the arts as a public issue. […]
(In BBC Written Archives Centre [WAC], R51/926/6).
Dear Miss Ridz,
Thank you so much for your kind letter of 14th October about photographs of myself in connection with the Reith Lectures. I should be so very grateful if we could manage to do without them. This is a personal idiosyncrasy and I hope you will forgive it. However, I could supply you with a list of a few works of art related to the substance of the lectures, and of which photographs could easily be obtained. I would gladly send you some suggestions if you would just let me know whether you would find them useful, as I very much hope you will.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 95, file 2).
Dear Miss Ridz,
Concerning photographs, you were so very kind as to accept my suggestion that instead of supplying the press with photographs of myself we might try to persuade them to accept pictures which illustrate the subjects discussed. Miss Kallin has explained to me that you are being embarrassed by pressing requests and has tried her best to convince me that I should let you take a photograph on the 20th November in the studio. Please do not think that I am needlessly difficult, but it so happens that I feel rather strongly on this particular point and would prefer helping you out in any other way I can. I am therefore enclosing one photograph of Hegel and two photographs of Plato in the hope that they might satisfy the picture-hungry editors. Could you not impress upon them that these faces are interesting and timely?
Please forgive me!
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 95, file 2).
Dear Professor Wind,
Thank you very much for your letter. We do understand most fully your difficulties, which are obviously overwhelming, as regards a voicecast by yourself at the dates we have in mind.
Under the circumstances we must regretfully have your talks read by an announcer.
Thanks for your references to the German authorities you quote. We shall try to find the passages without bothering you, but if we can’t manage this, I hope you won’t mind if we send you down a list of the quotes we have not located and beg for your assistance.
Our translator wonders whether it would be correct to translate the general title of the talks “Kunst und Anarchie”, feeling that perhaps “Anarchie” has overtones in German not connected with “anarchy” in English. Would you accept, instead, “Kunst und Chaos”? Since we need this information by tomorrow or the day after for our advance publicity, I will ask Barry Sullivan to give you a ring in the course of tomorrow (Wednesday).
Again with many thanks,
(BBC Written Archives Centre [WAC], R51/936/1).
Dear Professor Wind,
Dr. Linfert has now returned to us your Reith Lectures with his intended cuts marked. I enclose his letter (will you please return it eventually?), which will, I hope, reassure you about his intentions. It would seem that he does not desire to telescope or produce a digest of any sections of the lectures.
I would add that our Programme Organiser, Dr. Edmund Wolf, who was in Cologne a little while ago, has a high opinion of Doctor Linfert’s qualifications.
Do you think you could let us have your views, once more, by telephone. That would be a great help as we have to get on with the cutting of the tape here in Bush House, as it is a rule that recipients of transcription tapes cannot tamper with them in any way.
With kind regards.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 95, file 2).
Ernst E. Stein to Edgar Wind, June 19, 1963.
Dear Professor Wind:
A few queries while I am going through the translation of Lectures III and IV:
On p.47 of the book, the Morelli method is called remarkably clear. In the original Lecture it was remarkably early – which I presume is right. It does not seem so remarkable that the method was clear, it had to be, seeing what it was out to do, – but that it came long before everybody else. Which is right?
p.49 Where will I find the German wording of the Schönberg quotation? The book has been published in Germany, of course, but I cannot lay my hands on it here.
What worries me a little, is that all your examples in Lecture III are of English painters – Hogarth, Constable – and the same applies to didactic poems in Lecture IV (an old pet worry of mine, which you suppressed at the time when the Lectures were given). It is an English book, I know, but the German edition will be carrying biographical details of the Author, and expediency should be given a dollop.
Are you happy with the term Kenner for connoisseur (which is out of the question in German)? A Kenner is much more of an expert than is conveyed by connoisseur, but you passed it throughout the Lectures, so I suppose it is all right with you,
I have just remembered, that at the very beginning of No. I, where the art patrons are numbered, I mentioned tentatively Prinz Eugen, since we agreed to leave out Spenser as unknown in Germany and, therefore, the age of Sir Walter Raleigh does not make sense; the mention of Mozart, however, is some justification for bringing Prinz Eugen for the 18th century (although not the same period). Can you think of a better art patron in Mozart’s times, who would be sufficiently well known in Germany?
Ernst E. Stein
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 102, file 1).
Dear Mr. Stein,
Thank you very much for your letter of June 19th and 20th. You are quite right about the chimaera, with reference to page 47. Perhaps I did not make sufficiently clear that my concern was only with ‘compounds of man and animal’. For ‘the only Greek monster’ please substitute ‘the only one’. I think that will do it. As for Picasso's Minotaur, I might agree that his face is humane, but not that it is human. A bull is a bull.
As for the choice between clearand early with regard to the Morellian method (page 47), I am afraid it has to remain clear. In the first version I did not discuss the antecedents in Schlegel, Novalis, Gilpin, etc., compared to which the Morellian method is distinguished by its clarity. It is early only among professional art-historians.
Page 49. So far as I can make out from Josef Rufer, Das Werk Arnold Schönbergs (1959), page 189, the book Style and Idea (1951) did not appear in German; but since it is a collection of essays, some of these may have appeared separately. Unfortunately, Rufer gives no information on this point. In case you can get hold of the copy of Style and Idea (I do not have one), you may find that it contains some indication of a German original here or there.
Kenner seems to me right for connoisseur. It is certainly the term used by Friedlaender, Bode and others.
Page 22. For 'Northern masters' we can quite well say ‘German masters’, since Grünewald and Baldung Grien fit the case to perfection.
So far I have only glanced at the text, because it arrived just in the last week of Term, but I hope to study it very soon. What I have seen strikes me as excellent. I do not share your worry about Hogarth and Constable. Although you are right in reflecting on the fact that I was born in Germany, I have been obliged to spend thirty-four years of my life in American and English universities, which is the major part of my adult existence. Hence the Germans are hardly in a position to complain that many of my illustrations are Anglo-Saxon. I do not think one should change the style of the book from what it is – a text originally intended for English readers. In view of that fact the book is remarkably full of German references, also in chapter III: Rilke, Stefan George, Schlegel, Novalis, not to mention Elise von Blasewitz.
As you may have seen from the Notes, there are many Wölfflin, Kant, Hegel and other quotations which you will have to give in the original German.
Have you any suggestions as to how we can handle that?
With kindest regards,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 102, file 1).
Hansjörg Graf to Edgar Wind, July 9, 1963.
Sehr verehrter Herr Professor Wind!
Vielen Dank für Ihren Brief vom 4. Juli. Selbstverständlich warte ich Ihr Placet ab, bevor wir mit dem Satz des Buches beginnen. Herr Stein hat übrigens den Titel “KUNST UND CHAOS” vorgeschlagen. Was sagen Sie dazu?
Mit freundlichen Grüssen
Ihr sehr ergebener
Dr. Hansjörg Graf
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 102, file 1).
Sehr geehrter Herr Dr. Graf,
Die Übersetzung von Kunst und Anarchie geht gut vorwärts, und ich hoffe binnen kurzer zeit auch den Anmerkungsteil von Herrn Stein zu erhalten.
‘Anarchie’ durch ‘Chaos’ zu ersetzen scheint mir nicht möglich, da dieser finstere Nietzsche'sehe Ton dem Buch ganz fernliegt. Es ist einer der wenigen Punkte, über die ich mit Herrn Stein noch nicht einig bin. Er fürchtet, dass ‘Anarchie’ im Deutschen eine rein politische Bedeutung habe, aber das lässt sich leicht durch Zitate widerlegen; z.B. Bernhard Diebold, Anarchie in Drama, 1921; oder Friedrich Schlegel in seinem Aufsatz über romantische Dichtung: ‘Die Anarchie welche in der ästhetischen Theorie wie in der Praxis der Künstler so sichtbar ist, erstreckt sich sogar auf die Geschichte der modernen Poesie’, u.s.w. Was jedoch das Entscheidende ist: Chaos und Anarchie sind zwei verschiedene Dinge, und ich meine Anarchie, nicht Chaos.
Schliesslich sind beide Worte griechischer Abkunft, beide kommen im Englischen wie im Deutschen vor, und in keiner dieser drei Sprachen sind sie vertauschbar. Für einen Zusammenhang von Kunst und Anarchie kann ich mich (Seite 7) auf Plato, Goethe und Bruckhardt [sic] berufen. Für ‘Kunst und Chaos’ wäre das undenkbar. Auch Baudelaire's passion frénétique (Seite 105) ist anarchisch, nicht chaotisch: ihre zerstörende Kraft beruht gerade auf ihrer Zielsicherheit.
Nebenbei bemerkt: Selbst die politischen ‘Anarchisten’ waren keineswegs bestrebt, das ‘Chaos’ herbeizuführen.
loh habe das alles natürlich Herrn Stein selbst mitgeteilt und er lässt es sich durch den Kopf gehen.
Mit freundlichen Grüssen,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 102, file 1).
Dear Mr. Wind:
I take the liberty of writing this letter to you to express my wish of translating your recent book: “The Art and Anarchy”. I found it quite stimulating and I am sure that it will interest Japanese readers, because it treats the important problems which we are also facing to. Therefore, the Japanese edition of this excellent lecture would be of the great significance to Japanese public as well as to our “connoisseurs”. I proposed the book to the IWANAMI-SHOTEN, one of the best editors (and many thinks it the best) of Japan. They are quite interested too and they began to negotiate for the copyright through the Faber Press, your editor. I hope you would give them a favourable response on this subject.
I must confess that I am always admiring your scholarly achievement and especially your excellent study on “The Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance” a true revelation for me. I studied for several years in Paris, at the Institut d’Art et d’Archéologie, the modem western art (specially the Renaissance and the XIXth century) and now I am a assistant curator at the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, and a lecturer at the Tokyo University, It should be a great pleasure for me to present your book to my compatriots.
With highest regards,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 101, file 1).
Please forgive me for being so late in thanking you for your letter of September, concerning a Japanese edition of Art and Anarchy. I was away until the beginning of Term and then favoured by an attack of influenza here.
In principle I am of course very happy about the prospect of a Japanese edition, and Mr. Takashina, who has in the meantime written to me directly, makes a sympathetic impression. I would like, however, to be a little more prudent than I was in the case of the German translation, which has cost me enormous trouble and time. Fortunately I do not know any Japanese, but having had a foretaste of the disasters that can happen, I would like the text of Mr. Takashina’s translation, after it is completed, to be read and approved by Mr. G. Bownas in my place. He is in charge of Japanese studies at the Oriental Institute here, knows Japan intimately, and would be willing to do this work. This would have to be made part of the contract with Iwanami-Shoten, and Mr. Bownas would have to be paid a reasonable fee. It should be made clear that this suggestion is in no sense to be interpreted as a lack of trust in Mr. Takashina’s competence, and it must be presented to the Japanese, who are sensitive in such matters, with tact and circumspection, stressing the fact that it is my ignorance of Japanese that prompts me to suggest that an Englishman who masters the language should read and approve of the translation in my stead.
Let me add that Mr. Bownas is a very agreeable and modest man, with a great love and respect for Japan, who would cause no trouble at all. He agrees that Iwanami-Shoten is the best publisher in Japan.
The terms they offer are not very handsome, but if they agree to write Mr. Bownas's fee into the contract, I would be inclined to accept them.
With best wishes,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 101, file 1).
Dear Professor Wind,
Thank you very much for your letter of 1st November. I am sure you are right about foreign translations. They must be watched very carefully. I am now writing to you to give you the wording of the clause that we are proposing to include in our contract with Iwanami Shoten and that we would include in other foreign contracts for your books. Clause 8 of our printed contract for translations of our books reads as follows: “The translation of the said Work shall be made faithfully and accurately. Abbreviations or alterations or additions shall only be made in the text of the said Work with the written consent of the Proprietors (i.e. Faber)”. We will change “Proprietors” to “Author”; and we will add the following sentence: “The Publishers (i.e. the Japanese publishers) shall submit the typescript of their translation of the said Work to the Author for his written approval before it is sent to press, such approval not to be withheld unreasonably or for an undue length of time”. This is the addition we normally make when authors want to see foreign translations of their work before they are printed. We hope very much that you will be happy with it. If you are, we will make out the contract and send it off to Japan.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 101, file 1).
Dear Mr. Röthlingshöfer,
Thank you very much for your interesting letter of 22nd September. It is a pity we have not been able to meet. I am not surprised that at a first quick glance you found the material of ART AND ANARCHY a little confusing, but I rather hope that after a little more time some of the perplexing parts did clear up for you. That you should find old-fashioned words, or phases that do not seem accurate, or that you should wish to turn about a sentence or reconstruct it altogether is only natural in the circumstances.
I also understand that as a professional translator you would prefer to sit down with the book fresh before you and begin translating from start to finish. In this instance, however, we are not dealing with just any previous translation but with the author's last revisions of a text now more than ten years old. You find discrepancies between the English and the German version. I must explain that my husband never regarded a book as a fossil. Every new edition contained alterations and additions.
In the case of ART AND ANARCHY the 1968 paperback in America, of which you now have two copies, contained a section of Addenda at the end, as you will have seen from the Table of Contents. Since this section had been cut out of the copies I sent to you (for use in Italy), a photocopy of these pages was enclosed. In the German version my husband wished to eliminate this tail-piece by putting the new material within the book where it belonged. He did this in the first 53 notes which he translated himself, thus causing the shift in numbering indicated in the margins of the book. Of course they are anyhow not notes in the conventional sense, but often small essays in their own right, as was his custom.
Since I have had no specimen translation from you – did you intend to send me something? – I should like to suggest that for the time being we continue to work on the translation of ART AND ANARCHY here in Oxford, and when a further stage has been reached, would you care to look at it again? I know that you will understand that questions arising from the new material, and also questions of interpretation, would have to be argued in detail and this would be terribly difficult – in fact, as I see it at this point – impossible to achieve by letter. I wish I could give you carte blanche to do as you like, but given the nature of the book itself, and the problems of the present assignment, you will understand that I cannot do this in good conscience.
Once again, I should be happy to have your comments, a frank exchange being the only way to get ahead with the work.
Did you experience the torrential rains in Rome? Or did you escape to safety as I did one afternoon (to my humiliation) in a carròzza [sic]?
I shall be out of Oxford briefly but look forward very much to another note from you.
With best wishes,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 102, file 3).
K.B. McFarlane to Edgar Wind, October 8, 1963.
you will have guessed that my reluctance to write to you about Art and Anarchy, a brilliant book that I have much enjoyed, arises from a wish to postpone any expression of my imperfect sympathy with some – only a few – of your views. Nevertheless you will do me the justice to believe that it has taken three readings of the text of your book and frequent rereadings of its beguiling notes (on a bed in the discomfort of a mock-Tudor hotel-bedroom in north Straffordshire) to bring me to the point of uttering my lack of conviction. Forgive me. What I have just written already looks far too sweeping, but there is no space for all the qualifications dictated by true accuracy. This is a very rough, fumbling statement of my inability to swallow all your doctrine whole. A book of essays would be needed to do your lectures justice.
Two minor points to begin with. The first historical: your remarks about the ‘fear of knowledge’ and ‘didactic subjects’ may apply to the visual arts of the last century. But take literature, e.g., Tennyson, George Eliot, Tolstoy. Even Turgenev & Henry James can’t be squeezed into your formula. By the way, Mallarmé & Joyce strike me as an odd pair of writers for your short list on p. 18. Personally I regard Joyce as a minor writer with little […] as historical significance. But if there two […] your argument on pp. 58-9, who else that matter does? Second, much as I am prepared to go much of the way with you over the New Sheldonian, you seem to me to be too uncompromising. The Sheldonian was built by working masons to Wren’s design & under Wren’s supervision, not by Wren’s own hands & tools. Machinery may fail to reproduce the original, but I see no reason why manual labour shall not & in the long run even man-controlled machinery might. I don’t suppose that you really disagree with this. At least we can unite in thinking that the New Sheldonian isn’t much like Wren’s.
That brings me to my chief failure to follow you. ‘A frenzied addiction to art’ does not strike me as common enough defect to cause alarm. Where has it been? You & Plato seem too easily alarmed. And weren’t Plato’s main concerns political? And weren’t they the same as Kruschev’s? I have obeyed you & thought about Alcibiades – without profitable light! Is there any real ground for accepting your history of the emasculation of art? If we can take Poussin & Picasso on successive days, isn’t that because we are all historians nowadays? You can’t expect me to regret that. Nor does it mean that the impact need to be any duller. As you say later in ‘Aesthetic Participation’ ‘an understanding of goodness may well be needed to appreciate Fra Angelico’ but this does not mean that one has to be good. Perhaps we are more agile at participation than our ancestors. Then the historical argument in Lecture I doesn’t convince me. The fifteenth century in Italy does not seem to me, as centuries go, a particularly disturbed one. And I’m with Hume about the Greeks: the conjunction seemed accidental. Much more likely is the existence of surplus ready to be spent on sympathetic patronage.
There’s much else I could say, but I must already have bored an exasperated you. As the word ‘interesting’ as a term of art-appreciation now nears ‘unattractive’ to me thought it would be impolite – or unsafe – to say so! I cannot call your book interesting for fear of misunderstanding. So may I say ‘enthralling’? The length of this letter is proof of my thralldom. I’ve enormously enjoyed it & have begun giving it to my more intellectual friends. Thank you again for the present of it.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 98, file 1).
Thank you again (my influenza having been mastered) for your delightful and nourishing letter. Your remarks leave no doubt in my mind that I have ‘studied brevity to excess’. I should have made clear that the features I stressed were not the only features at any given time, and however significant they may have seemed to me, there were also contrary forces at work. This I clearly failed to convey. However, since you challenge me to name any writer of significance or influence, apart from Mallarmé [and Joyce], who would fit my description, – well, here is a small collection: the Goncourts, Théophile Gautier, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Valery, Poe Walt Whitman, Swinburne, Rilke, Hofmannsthal, Verhaeren, Proust, Virginia Woolf. Unless you had forbidden it, I would have included also the late Henry James. The self-sufficient artistry of his stylistic elaborations seems to me, as in Proust, a perfect example of ‘dissociation of sensibility’. Incidentally, I must decline both the glory and the shame of being the first to have made these observations. I tried to show in the notes how many others had made them before me. In fact, I expected the book to be dismissed as vieux jeu. I am amazed, but not elated, that it should seem paradoxical and perverse.
Tennyson, whom you justly name as representing the contrary forces, seems to me to prove how weak (in their historical after-effect) they were, compared with the centrifugal energies. Who is Tennyson’s successor now? John Masefield? The significant poets, whether we like them or not, are certainly those who followed the precedent of the poètes maudits – just as the significant painters today are those outside all the Royal Academies.
On the disappearance of didacticism in art I think our disagreement is less fundamental than it looks: for I was using the term ‘didactic art’ in the strict and narrow sense of modern aesthetics, where it is confined to poems and paintings that clothe propositions and arguments in metres and figures. In that sense, Auden's New Year Letteris still a didactic poem (like Pope’s Essay on Criticism), but the species has practically died out.
The ‘frenzied addiction to art’, of which you find few traces, was observed by Baudelaire among creative artists, and it was in that context that I quoted it on page 2 (also pp. 105 f.), adding that, when we share in the artist's experience (p. 7), we are exposed to the same threat ‘to a lesser degree’. How to avoid ‘excess or atrophy’ – has been so persistent a preoccupation of artists and amateurs (think only of the Wagnerian excesses and exhaustions!) that I cannot agree with you if you mean to suggest that those who observed these phenomena are mistaken. You might as well say that the age-old association of art with enthusiasm is deluded. Admittedly, in very stolid societies, in which the ‘artist’ and the ‘artisan’ have not yet been driven apart, material security – in your words, ‘the existence of surplus wealth ready to be spent on sympathetic patronage’ – may stimulate the productivity of artists; yet it is the quantity, rather than quality, of the art that seems to respond to such causes. The quality depends on a far more precarious element, the presence of a heightened imagination and sensibility, and no surplus wealth seems to account for that. While under the late Kaiser surplus wealth in Berlin produced huge quantities of worthless art, the Medici, the Sassetta, the Gonzagas were repeatedly at the verge of Bankruptcy while art flourished. In their cases the operative force was not so much surplus wealth as surplus risk, and the latter was shared by the artists whom they paid so irregularly.
As a general rule, it seems to me that Burckhardt was right in explaining that conditions of crisis are more favourable to the creative imagination than conditions of security. Only in exceptional cases is the exercise of artistic genius entirely comfortable. Even your Memling was an émigré. Some day, when you lecture (I hope) on Roger van der Weyden and perhaps – who knows – on Hugo van der Goes or Massys, I shall watch with amusement whether you will keep your thoughts untainted by the more disturbing parts of artistic psychology.
Say against Plato what you must, he understood the artistic process exceedingly well because he was intimately acquainted with it. Leaving Krushchev, Hitler and Professor Popper where they belong, the claim that Plato’s main concerns were political turns the evidence of his writings upside down. Out of twenty-four dialogues, only three deal with politics at all; and even these are pervaded by his theory of the imagination. The reverse proposition does not hold. That Alcibiades (the artist turned statesman) leaves you cold surprises me, just as I cannot follow your suggestion that the Italian Renaissance, ‘as centuries go’, does not belong to ‘a particularly disturbed one’. Florence at the time (say) of the Pazzi conspiracy or of the second expulsion, or the second return, of the Medici, Rome under the Borgias (even allowing that they were not as operatic as Symonds believed), Naples under the reign and collapse of the Aragonese, Venice attacked by the League of Cambray, all of Italy invaded by the French, Milan during the usurpation of Lodovico il Moro – if these circumstances answer your definition of relative quietude, then your demands on history are far more cataclysmic than Burckhardt’s or Plato’s. They did not ask for quite so much to feel disturbed. As Gide once said to Maritian [sic]: ‘Viewed sub specie aternitatis, this may be nothing, but for us it is enough.’
From what you say in praise of our easy transition from Picasso to Poussin, I would infer that you have been spared the experience of those vast exhibitions which, I think, engender vacuity (p. 3). Versatility alone would not worry me. Quite another matter is the wholesale absorption of impressions that ought to conflict but do not, because mass presentation has levelled them out. I just saw in Paris another one of these monster shows. This time Delacroix was reduced to a vast zero, which would make transition to an equally neutralized Poussin only too easy. If this is (as you seem to suggest) ‘because we are all historians nowadays’, then we are bad historians because these things were not neutral when they were produced.
On the Sheldonian I can be short: it is like twentieth-century Chippendale. Your assumption that architectural workmanship – that is, the way the stones are put together – is less conditioned by history than architectural design, does not seem to me tenable. Masonry is as easily datable as are drawings, and there is no fooling about the style of physical building methods, whether by machine or by hand. If you build Wren-façades now, you get midtwentieth-century-Wren façades, and if these forms are not recognized at once as pastiche, they will be so recognized in ten years, when building methods will have shifted and the building begins to ‘date’.
I shall not ask you to forgive the length of this letter because the fault is yours, but I may express the hope that you have a new cat. I came across an epigram by Lessing, to the following effect: ‘Why do men of letters have an affection for cats? – Because they do not want the mice to eat their papers.’
I include a palinode on Plato.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 98, file 1).
Dear Mr. Green,
I am delighted to learn from your letter of 9th June that Vintage Books are interested in producing a paperback edition of Art and Anarchy. Since this series is published by Random House, I take it that the book will remain, so to speak, under the same auspices as before; and this pleases me very much.
There are one or two points in your letter which I do not quite understand but which, I imagine, can be cleared up easily:
(1) You mention a royalty of 5 per cent as stipulated by our contract, but I cannot find in our contract any article or paragraph that stipulates five per cent for paperbacks. Am I mistaken? I would not have agreed to such a low rate in the contract, particularly since paperbacks are likely to cut into the sale of the hardcover edition. The fact that Penguin are paying me a royalty of 7 1/2 per cent on another paperback reprinted from Faber and Faber suggests that 5 percent is somewhat below the minimum.
(2) So far as I know, the illustrations are not cleared for publication in paperback, but I understand very little of this matter, since my publishers have always taken care of it. If you have any questions, would you kindly confer with Faber and Faber, who are my agents for this book and have made all the arrangements with foreign publishers.
(3) Since Art and Anarchy was first published in 1963 and your second printing was already an offset from sheets originally imported from Faber, it seems to me desirable that the new reprint should incorporate a number of short but important additions that refer to developments and discoveries of the last four years. These could be confined almost exclusively to the Notes, but they would require the use of the same type as R. MacLehose employed for the original sheets. Would you like me to enquire with Faber whether the type, which (I believe) is still standing, could be expanded to meet that need?
With kind regards and best wishes,
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 99, file 3).
Dear Mr. Foà,
Thank you very much for your kindness in writing to Professor Oversteegen, from whom I have had a very agreeable letter in which he says that he, and his wife too, will be glad to read the proofs of Meulenhoff’s translation. I am really very grateful for your help because, for some unaccountable reason, it proved difficult to find a competent person for this work in England. Forgive me for being bothersome.
I have wanted to write to you for a long time – ever since the evening we spent together last autumn with Fleur and Roberto and Mr. Bertolucci. Although Edgar was not there, it was he who brought us together in this moving way on a Milanese night – a city whose hidden marvels he loved. You know without my saying it how much he admired the style of Adelphi, the beauty and immaculate finish of your books. He was very conscious of your generosity toward him.
It was the happiest relationship with a publisher that he experienced in his life.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 101, file 3).
Dear Mrs. Wind:
We beg to inform you that Mr. Wind’s work ART AND ANARCHY has already been translated into Romanian and is ready to go to the press In connection with this we would be most grateful if you could nominate the Romanian scholar to whom you want us to submit the text for approval; We take the liberty to remind you that the translator is Mrs. Cristina Condiescu – a distinguished scholar of art and English translator.
Secondly, we would ask you to be so kind and make as a great favour and allow us to change the title “Art and Anarchy” into “Art and Passion”, which in Romanian is much more suggestive, and we think that it would not come into contradiction with the general and particular spirit of the book grounded on the dichotomy art-ration, anarchy-passion. This would also add to the success of the book on the Romanian book market, considering the psychology of the Romanian reader. In case of your kind approval for this small alternation of form, we would ask you to be so kind and let us know your opinion at your earliest convenience. Besides, the original title of the book “Art and Anarchy” will be printed in due prominence on the title page.
Thanking you for your kind co-operation.
We remain, Dear Ms. Wind,[sic]
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 101, file 4).
Dear Mr. Morariu [sic],
Thank you very much for your letter of 166 [sic] July which has just reached me. I am delighted to know that Madame Condiescu’s translation is ready for our reader, who is Mr. Frank Barnett, an eminent philologist and Romanian expert in Oxford University. He has kindly agreed to attend to the manuscript and suggests that you send it to me here at my address as quickly as possible and he will collect it during the first week of September, as he is now in France and Switzerland and we wish to avoid any confusion in the mails. He is a very experienced translator himself and looks forward with much interest and pleasure to reading Madame Condiescu’s text.
Although I should like to accommodate you in any way I can, it does seem impossible to alter the title of the book from ART AND ANARCHY to ART AND PASSION, since this flattens the meaning on the one hand and injects the wrong connotations on the other. I am very sorry indeed.
The photographs which I promised to send you for the purpose of making the reproductions will be sent in a parcel in the next fortnight and I hope they reach you safely.
With very best wishes and kind regards,
Mrs Edgar Wind
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 101, file 4).
Dear Mr. Moriaru,
The manuscript of Madame Condiescu’s translation is enclosed together with Mr. Barnett’s comments and corrections (and a few of my own) in the following order:
1. Mr. Barnett’s proposed new title: Art and the Daemon of Imagination
I sincerely hope you will find this acceptable to the Romanian reader. It is a suggestive title which derives from certain passages in the book, it accurately represents the substances of the argument, and it is a title my husband himself might have chosen. I feel able to allow this change in good conscience especially since the original title Art and Anarchy will be prominently displayed on the title page, as suggested in your letter of 16 July 1976.
2. Mr. Barnett’s comments and corrections referring to the six chapters of the text
3. Mrs. Wind’s comments
4. Introduction end Preface
5. Table of Contents (alteration and query)
6. List of Illustrations revised
7. Text of the six chapters with marginal notes, queries and corrections
8. Notes and References. All the corrections from this point on are written itno [sic] the manuscript, often continuing on the back of the page.
9. Addenda. Mr. Barnett's corrections are also written into the manuscript of this section. There were many more mistakes in the typescript after about page 111.
10. Biographical statement. Perhaps you will agree with me that the statement from the Vintage edition seems a little out of date. I have added a recent entry from WHO'S WHO and other material in case you might find these interesting or useful in revising the statement.
11. Original text for reference is needed.
Let me say again how sorry I am about the delay in the return of the manuscript, I well understand the great amount of work involved in translating my husband’s books, and appreciate your wish to make the Romanian edition an excellent one. Mr. Barnett’s asks to be let know in advance when we are to expect the proofs here so that time may be set aside for them. We would not wish to delay you again.
With very kind regards,
Mrs Edgar Wind
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 101, file 4).
Ros has just asked me what Edgar thought about modern art. He was passionately interested in it.
As a boy in Berlin, the Old Masters in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum left him cold. The only pictures that fascinated him were those of the French Impressionists, the new and controversial acquisitions, and those of the Berlin Secession, a society for the advancement of contemporary art. Wherever he was, he went to exhibitions of modern art, and bought long ago two early drawings by Klee, three marvellous prints by Braque, and a Soulages which are here in the house. He would have bought more if he could have.
He lectured on modern art from time to time. In 1942 he gave a famous series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where he was invited to apply to the contemporary scene the same method of historical analysis which he had applied so successfully to the Renaissance. He called the series The Tradition of Symbols in Modern Art: The Heritage of Baudelaire, History of the Monster, Picasso and the Atavism of the Mask; The Survival of Wit, Scientific and Religious Fallacies — Our Present Discontents.
Here at Oxford in 1957 he gave three lectures on Modern Art in the Taylorian, which I am told were the first lectures on modern art in the University; Matisse and Rouault as Religious Painters, Picasso and the Atavism of the Mask, Paul Klee. From time to time, he also took part in debates on the role of art, and artists, with E. M. Forster in ‘The Critical Nature of a Work of Art’, in a symposium on Music and Criticism, ed. R. F. French, Harvard University Press, 1948, and on another occasion with Auden, whom he provoked into writing The Truest Poetry is the Most Feigning.
The paper on Matisse and Rouault was published in Art News under the title ‘Traditional Religion and Modern Art’, LII, no. 3, May 1953, but it will be printed in a slightly reviewed version, with the references added, in the first volume of Edgar’s papers. At a congress in Paris where Malraux, Stravinsky, Cocteau and other luminaries performed pieces (including a magnificent Oedipus Rex), a brief paper Edgar delivered in French was published in Problèmes de l’art contemporaine, Supplément de la Revue ‘Preuves’, Nr. 29, 1953. He called it ‘Un art de caprice, de recherches, un art marginal’,— referring to painting.
But all these themes are perhaps best set out in Art and Anarchy where he puts them in a wider context. Plato’s view of art preoccupied him always. He used to call the book a tract for the times. The 1969 edition has some Addends which are of interest, too, but that edition is at present available only in foreign languages.
(Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Wind 14, file 2).
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This essay discusses the use of the word ‘anarchy’ by the German art historian and philosopher Edgar Wind (1900-1971) in his Art and Anarchy (1963). The book — which resulted from Wind’s homonymous 1960 BBC Reith Lecture — advanced a controversial thesis: contemporary artistic experience had lost its ‘sting,’ that is, its capacity to stir spiritual turmoil and, in this manner, provoke societal transformations. To that end, Wind understood ‘anarchy’ as applied to the arts, in a positive framework. However, despite the titular prominence of the word, Wind rarely uses it in the text or overtly defines it. Except for a few brief mentions in his Nachlass, there is little understanding regarding why Wind chose such a contentious term for the title of his critique on modern art. This paper aims to outline the publishing history of Art and Anarchy, assess the socio-cultural background of Wind’s Reith Lectures, and evaluate the semantic range of ‘anarchy’ vis-à-vis Wind’s theory of art.
keywords | Edgar Wind; Art and Anarchy; Anarchy.
La Redazione di Engramma è grata ai colleghi – amici e studiosi – che, seguendo la procedura peer review a doppio cieco, hanno sottoposto a lettura, revisione e giudizio questo saggio.
(v. Albo dei referee di Engramma)
To cite this article: I. Takaes The Demented, the Demonic, and the Drunkard. Edgar Wind’s Anarchic Art Theory, “La Rivista di Engramma” n. 176, ottobre 2020, pp. 43-98 | PDF of the article