Wide shot of a bookshelf

Clive Bell And The Making Of Modernism

Mark Hussey, PhD
Professor, English

Clive Bell And The Making Of Modernism By Mark Hussey

What is the central theme of your book?

It is a biography, so it doesn’t really have a “theme” as such—Clive Bell was an important art critic, instrumental in bringing modernist visual art to England; he was also an outspoken pacifist before and during World War I.

What inspired you to write this book?

I have spent much of my academic career researching and writing about modernism, Virginia Woolf, and the Bloomsbury Group. It had always struck me as strange that there was no biography of Clive Bell, so eventually, I gave up waiting for one and wrote it myself. I also wanted to see if I could write a biography.

Why is this book important in your field? What does it contribute to the current body of knowledge on this topic?

This is the first biography of Clive Bell, and therefore fills one of the very few remaining gaps in the body of work on the Bloomsbury Group. Although, as the husband of the painter Vanessa Bell and brother-in-law of Virginia Woolf, Bell has appeared in many works in the field, he has until now always been somewhat obscured by his more celebrated peers. This biography is important because it shows the breadth of his interests and influence, and accounts for his long life (1881-1964). He was born when Queen Victoria was still on the throne and died when the Beatles could be heard on the radio! The book also goes into a lot of detail about the artistic debates of the period.

Were students involved in any research related to your book? If so, please explain and name the student(s).

No, but I had incredible and invaluable support from Pace librarians (all of whom are thanked by name in my acknowledgments, as are several other people at Pace who facilitated my research in various ways).

Tell me about a particularly special moment in writing this book.

Most of the archival material upon which this book is based is in England, and, therefore, I spent many happy weeks in Cambridge, London and Sussex. Perhaps the most special moment, however, was when I had first decided to write it and was able to spend an afternoon with Anne Olivier Bell, Clive Bell’s daughter-in-law and the renowned editor of Virginia Woolf’s diary, at her house in Sussex. Amazing paintings by Vanessa Bell and her contemporaries hung on the walls, and Mrs. Bell, who was 97 at the time, graciously encouraged me to write the biography and helped me in every way she could.

What is the one thing you hope readers take away from your book?

A copy (ha ha) … I think probably I would like readers to have a more expanded and nuanced understanding of that much-overused term ‘Bloomsbury Group’.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your book?

It comes out in the UK April 1 and has already been favorably reviewed in the London Times. The United States publishing date is July 6.

What other books have you published?

Modernism’s Print Cultures (with Faye Hammill)

Virginia Woolf A to Z(OUP)

Virginia Woolf and War: Fiction, Reality and Myth(Syracuse UP)

The Singing of the Real World: The Philosophy of Virginia Woolf’s Fiction(Ohio State UP)

Masculinities: Interdisciplinary Readings (a textbook I created for the Women’s and Gender Studies ‘Men and Masculinities’ course which I designed) (Prentice-Hall)

It had always struck me as strange that there was no biography of Clive Bell, so eventually, I gave up waiting for one and wrote it myself. I also wanted to see if I could write a biography.

Fun Facts

When did you join Dyson?

I began as an adjunct at Pace in 1984. I would often tutor students on a bench in the library on Saturday mornings (because there was no adjunct office then!). After five years, I was hired full-time. I actually created and edited the first Dyson newsletter, Dysonnews, way back then.

What motivates you as a teacher?

Students who are motivated.

What do you do in your spare time; to relax/unwind?

Watch streaming series on TV.

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I’m reading a biography of the photographer Diane Arbus. Now that I am retiring from teaching, I have much more time to read for pleasure!