After A Very British Renaissance, and a few words on the “suit” (updated)

What next for Dr James Fox, Broadcaster?  He recently said on Twitter that he was working on a new programme which would be very different to A Very British Renaissance.  I have no idea what this might be, but if I was a commissioning editor at the BBC, I would give him a chance to do something on art and the First World War.  He wrote a very nice paper on it recently (Conflict and Consolation: British art and the First World War, Art History, 36 (4) pp. 810-33), and until I read it, I hadn’t given much thought to the subject.  Here’s the last paragraph of his abstract:

This article… aims to do more than just rediscover and rehabilitate an overlooked sector of wartime art. By studying material that was driven by popular demand, targeted at a broader public, and in many cases mass-produced, this ‘art history from below’ sheds light on the ways that a large swathe of Britons responded to art through the war and responded to the war through art. The result is a very different picture of British cultural life between 1914 and 1918: not one caught between philistinism and pessimism or avant-garde and rear-guard, but one in which all kinds of people came to interact with artworks in subtle, personal and often very hopeful ways. In the process, this article argues that the hardships of war did not weaken but if anything strengthened the relationship between the British people and their art.

Sounds fascinating, doesn’t it?  WW1 anniversary connections aside, the issues he raises about the uses of art, and its impact on the public, continue to be highly relevant.  JF is a lot less sniffy than most commentators about how non-specialists (i.e. everyone who isn’t an artist, art critic or art historian) respond to art, and I think this piece would make a great 2-hour one-shot documentary, along the same lines as The Art of Cornwall (which you should definitely see, if you haven’t already).

James Fox wearing a navy jacket from an "affordable high street retailer" and making it look like it came from a  bespoke tailor

James Fox wearing a navy jacket from an “affordable high street retailer” and making it look like it came from a bespoke tailor

I’ve said more than enough in previous blog posts about JF’s immense charm, so I won’t go on about it again (except to say he’s fucking adorable), but I do want to mention The Suit.  Despite being regularly described in the media as wearing a suit, in recent years he’s usually been seen on TV in a dark brown or black navy (see below) jacket, deep-dyed jeans, a white shirt and black tie.  My half-baked theory is that the filters used by the cameraman during filming, and the tweaks made to the colour balance during the editing process, sometimes trick the eye into seeing a black suit when he’s really wearing a dark jacket and jeans.  Don’t ask me to elaborate on this uninformed reckon; my knowledge of the film editing process comes exclusively from the documentaries on the Lord of the Rings DVD box sets).  Anyway, the only time I am sure I saw him in a suit on TV was when he wore a rather stylish blue one with tan elbow patches on the Review Show last year.  Oh, and possibly during some scenes in The Art of Cornwall, when he appeared to be wearing a slightly-too-large navy suit.

And that’s pretty much all I have to say for the moment.  He occasionally uses Twitter (especially during periods when he’s on TV), so if you don’t already, you should follow him at @doctorjamesfox if you want to keep abreast of what he’s up to. 

SUIT UPDATE:

Feedback from the man himself!

I wonder which retailer?  Hopefully not Marks and Spencer, or it could make differentiating between him and Alastair Sooke problematic for a guy called Simon White:

DOCUMENTARY UPDATE:

Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker, and personal hero

Alex Ross, music critic of The New Yorker, and personal hero

This sounds brilliant. The place/time approach worked superbly for Alex Ross in his excellent survey of 20th century music, The Rest is Noise, which was the subject of a year-long festival  at the Southbank Centre in 2013 (Alex – my boyfriend, not Alex Ross – and I went to nearly all the weekends).

If you don’t follow it already, I highly recommend Alex Ross’ blog, also called the Rest is Noise. Alex Ross is a terrifically knowledgeable writer with a very open approach to all sorts of music, and comes over as a thoughtful, rather serious guy. He’s a real treasure, like a sort of musical James Fox. Okay, this post is now officially much too long. Over and out!

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