Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery by Jeanette Winterson - review by Laura Marcus

Laura Marcus

A History of the Human Heart

Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery


Jonathan Cape 128pp £9.99 order from our bookshop

The ten essays on art and the role of the artist which make up Art Objects are a manifesto written for the turn of the new century which echoes the tenets and the manifesto-making of High Modernism. Jeanette Winterson calls upon the artist to 'make it new' (Pound), elaborates the metaphor of the artist as one whose role is to renew the worn currency of language (Victor Shklovsky), and endorses T S Eliot's theories of the 'impersonality' of art, its transcendence of subjective and individual experience. Winterson's aesthetic touchstone and, she tells us, her collector's items are the works of early twentieth-century Modernists: Roger Fry, T S Eliot, D H Lawrence, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf and Robert Graves.

In 1914, Clive Bell wrote that 'Art and religion are, then, two roads by which men escape from circumstance to ecstasy.' The doctrine of art as transcendence runs throughout Winterson's essays: 'Art ... belongs by itself, a separate reality, a world apart'; 'The original role of the artist as visionary

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