The Last Eleven

Robert Melville writes about the paintings of Adrian Stokes at the Serpentine Gallery

When Adrian Stokes introduced Melanie Klein’s psychoanalytic researches into his appreciation of painting the results were sometimes so astonishing that I bought one of her books on child analysis. It was very, very clever, but I never got through it and stayed with Adrian’s extravagantly courageous application of her ideas. He made much use of her terminology in his last half-dozen books, and was particularly impressed by her belief that it is in the first year that the infant has to resolve its ambivalence towards the mother’s breast by discovering that the good breast, the one that feeds and envelops, is the same breast as the bad breast, which does neither. In other words, it seems to me, the child has to discover identity in difference. This is a phrase used with revelatory force in Colour and Form, when Adrian was discussing painters as far apart as Alfred Wallis and Picasso. It was published in 1937, several years before his insights became more difficult to follow under the influence of Kleinian psychoanalysis.

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