by Evelyn Waugh
Brideshead Revisited Art and Culture Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
It is easy, retrospectively, to endow one's youth with a false precocity or a false innocence; to tamper with the dates marking one's stature on the edge of the door. I should like to think – indeed I sometimes do think – that I decorated those rooms with Morris stuffs and Arundel prints and that my shelves were filled with seventeenth-century folios and French novels of the second empire in Russia-leather and watered-silk. But this was not the truth. On my first afternoon I proudly hung a reproduction of Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" over the fire and set up a screen, painted by Roger Fry with a Provencal landscape, which I had bought inexpensively when the Omega workshops were sold up. I displayed […] most painful to recall, a porcelain figure of Polly Peachum […]. My books were meagre and commonplace […] and my earliest friends fitted well into this background. (1.1.28)
This is the starting point for the aesthetic education that Charles will undergo throughout the course of Brideshead Revisited. He describes here his taste in art in his early days at Oxford – it reflects what at the time was modern art. Of course, later in the novel, Charles agrees with Cordelia that "modern art is all bosh." Much of his growth and artistic development comes from his relationship with Sebastian and the time he spends at Brideshead.
[… ] and my earliest friends fitted well into this background; they were Collins, a Wykehamist, an embryo don, a man of solid reading and childlike humour, and a small circle of college intellectuals, who maintained a middle course of culture between the flamboyant "aesthetes" and the proletarian scholars who scrambled fiercely for facts in the lodging houses of the Iffley -Road and Wellington Square. […] but even in the earliest days […] I felt at heart that this was not all that Oxford had to offer. (1.1.28)
Charles is looking for someone like Sebastian even before he meets him. This explains why he so eagerly delves into close friendship with the eccentric man.
Collins had exposed the fallacy of modern aesthetics to me: "...The whole argument from Significant Form stands or falls by volume. If you allow Cezanne to represent a third dimension on his two-dimensional canvas, then you must allow Landseer his gleam of loyalty in the spaniel's eye"– but it was not until Sebastian, idly turning the page of Clive Bell's Art, read: "Does anyone feel the same kind of emotion for a butterfly or a flower that he feels for a cathedral or a picture? Yes. I do," that my eyes were opened. (1.1.29)
Thus begins Charles’s aesthetic education at the hands of his friend Sebastian.