Bell, (Arthur) Clive Heward (1881–1964) By Overton, Tom
Clive Bell was an English art and cultural critic associated with the Bloomsbury Group. He is best known for the concept of “significant form,” which he outlined in his book Art (1914). Art made a version of the case for appreciating artistic form independently of content, which is known as Formalism. At the expense of representative, narrative, or iconographical meaning, the book encouraged a contemplation of “relations and combinations of lines and colours” in art from the ancient to the modern. “To appreciate a work of art,” Bell argued, “we need bring with us nothing from life, no knowledge of its ideas and affairs, no familiarity with its emotions.” Though this approach eventually fell out of critical fashion, Art remains enduringly significant as a manifesto for the post-impressionist movement, for which Bell helped Roger Fry to arrange important London exhibitions in 1910 and 1912. Bell is also remembered as a member of the Bloomsbury Group, an influential collection of artists and writers gathered in London which included Virginia Woolf.