The Outwardness of Art

Selected Writings of Adrian Stokes

“The Outwardness of Art is a single-volume compendium of some of the best words ever written by this most subtle and wide-ranging of aesthetic theorists.” – Michael Glover (Hyperallergic, ‘New Art Books for the New Season’, September 2020)

Immensely influential, and long beloved by artists, writers and theorists alike, Adrian Stokes (1902–1972) was at once the last of the great British amateur art writers in the tradition of Ruskin and Pater, and – as the first art theorist to substantially synthesize aesthetics and psychoanalysis – among the first of the moderns.

Since the publication of his groundbreaking Faber books, The Quattro Cento and, Stones of Rimini in the 1930s, Stokes’s writing has enjoyed an incredibly diverse readership across disciplines ranging from psychoanalysis to literature and art, from Ernst Gombrich to Dore Ashton, Ben Nicholson to Philip Guston, Ezra Pound to John Ashbery.

The breadth of his fan base reflects the diverse milieus in which he moved (whether the Bloomsbury of the Sitwells, Melanie Klein’s London acolytes, Ezra Pound’s circle or the St Ives artists). And yet it has been nearly 45 years since a broad introduction to his work has been commercially available.

In the wake of a recent biography, new critical studies and reprintings of individual books, this volume presents a substantial selection from Stokes’s published writings, highlighting him as a pioneering thinker of art and a virtuoso of the essay form.

In 1972, the year of Stokes’ death, the philosopher and art historian Richard Wollheim edited a selection of his writings. Published by Penguin and titled The Image in Form, Wollheim’s selection drew from famous books such as The Quattro CentoStones of Rimini, Colour and Form, Inside Out, and Smooth and Rough.

This volume too draws on these classic texts (but presenting entire essays or chapters rather than selections) but also significantly expands the selection with the addition of important posthumously published essays as well as Stokes’s superb ballet writings of the 1920s.

This book introduces one of the twentieth century’s great prose stylists and most nuanced aesthetic theorists to a new audience.

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