Significant form

A controversial notion introduced by Clive Bell (1881-1964) who was associated with the Bloomsbury Group. In the publication ‘art’ in 1914 he contended that no matter how successful a work of art is technically, if it does not evoke an emotional response as created from the experience of form, it cannot be thought of as art. The somewhat tautological statement, might have completely disregarded the fact that whatever creates an emotional response is fairly subjctive and personal.

Nevertheless, it might not be such a daft measure of success because what is art if it fails to tell you something? Significant form, according to Bell, had elements of formal attributes, which compostion could and should have an emotional impact on us.

See also this related article: A collector’s guide to the art critics and their influence