Wednesday, June 29, 2016

257. Brexit and Charles Ricketts's political ideas

The Brexit votes in Great Britain have won: 52% of the population voted for leaving the European Union; 48% voted for remaining, but lost. The British Isles are a divided country, but the votes are similar to those that would have been expected in other countries had there been a referendum - for example in France, Denmark and the Netherlands. Nationalism on the one side, mercantile reasoning on the other - the debate about borders is not likely to fade away. 

What Charles Ricketts would have thought about the referendum is impossible to say. As an artist, he hated the bureaucracy that came with borders, and art works themselves were not seen by him as the work of a country, a people, or a national character; they were the expression of an individual. Still, he believed that the English were different from the Germans, and the Italians. The English hated artists, German paintings did not have a sense of beauty.

His political ideas were conservative, and driven by his concerns about art. But after visiting Canada and the United States, the English seemed indifferent and apathetic, and he missed the vitality of the other continent. As Paul Delaney noted: 'Among the European countries he had visited, only Italy under Mussolini showed at the time the same wish to advance'. 

Ricketts wasn't a propagator for democracy - it would undoubtedly harm the arts - and he looked for order, duty, a sense of real values, and 'a return to construction and veneration for firm things'. He wrote these words in a letter to the poet W.B. Yeats in 1922, the year that Mussolini marched on Rome, and became prime minister of Italy; and two years before the socialist Giacomo Matteotti was murdered by fascist militia.

Ricketts died in 1931, and probably never changed his thoughts on Mussolini.

[J.G.P. Delaney, Charles Ricketts. A Biography (1990), p. 365; Self-Portrait Taken from the Letters & Journals of Charles Ricketts, R.A. (1939), pp. 342-343.]