SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF THE CROWD
The Crowd 1916
WYNDHAM LEWIS MENU
The Crowd, oil on canvas 78" x 60", exhibited at the Second London Group exhibition 1915 as Revolution,also known as Democratic Composition. Acquired from the artist by Captain Guy Baker and presented by his widow Mrs. Stross to the Tate Gallery London.
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Responses to the Work.
LEWIS WRITING ABOUT THE CROWD
The Writings of Gustave Lebon,
The Crowd, a study of the Popular Mind, 1896.
"it has been the task of the masses before to bring about the destruction of a worn-out civilisation... its final dissolution is brought about by those unconscious and brutal crowds known justifiably enough as barbarians. Crowds destroy and do not create. In consequence of the destructive nature of their power, crowds act like the microbes which hasten the dissolution of enfeebled or dead bodies. In the collective mind the intellectual aptitudes of the individuals , and in consequence their individuality, are weakened." The characteristics of the crowd, "The first is that the individual forming part of the crowd acquires solely from numerical considerations, a sentiment of invincible power which allows him to yield to instincts which had he been alone he would perforce have kept under retraint. In any crowd every sentiment and act is contagious to such a degree that an individual readily sacrifices his personal interest to the collective interest. The most careful observations seem to prove that an individual immersed for some length of time in a crowd in action soon finds himself - either as a consequence of of the magnetic influence given out by the crowd or from some other cause of which we are ignorant - in a special state which much resembles the state of fascination in which the hypnotised individual finds himself in the hands of the hypnotiser. The activity of the brain being paralysed in the case of the hypnotised subject, the latter becomes the slave of all the activities of the spinal cord, which the hypnotiser directs at will. [the detailed characteristics of the crowd are ] impulsiveness, irritiabiltiy, incapacity to reason, the absence of judgement and of the critical spirit, the exaggeration of the sentiments and others besodes - which are almost always observed in beings belonging to inferior forms in evolution - in women, savages and children for instance. "
"An orator in intimate communication with the crowd can evoke images by which it will be seduced....As soon as a certain number of living beings are gathered together whether they be animals or men they place themselves instictively under the authority of a chief.... The leaders we speak of are usually men of action rather than of words. They are not gifted with keen forsight... They are especially recruited from the ranks of those morbidly nervous exciteable half-deranged persons who are bordering on madness. [two classes of leader, the energetic whose will is intermittent, and the rarer group whose will is enduring] the world belongs to the crowd leader who possesses a persistent will-force."
"Their tumultous bursts of violence are like the tumultuous waves which the tempest raises on the surface of the ocean..."
"It is often impossible on reading plays to explain their success. Managers of theatres when accepting plays are themselves often unsure of success, because to judge the matter it would be necessary to transform themselves into a crowd."
The Writings of Gustave Lebon, The Psychology of Socialism 1899
"The revolutionary ideal was to shatter the classes and corporations and reduce every individual to a common type...Nothing could be more strongly opposed to the Anglo-Saxon individualism which forms the banding together of individuals, obtains everything by it and confines the action of the state within narrow limits."
"It is only in our days and above all since the revolution that Individualism, at least under certain forms has at all developed among the Latin races. .. It is a far cry from the Individualism practiced by the Anglo-Saxons for example, among other nations... Young and vigorous races such as the Anglo-Saxons in which the mental inequalities between individuals are not so great, accommodate themselves very well to such a state of things."
"The Parisian workman approaches the Savage in his impulsive nature, his lack of foresight, his want of self control. and his habit of having no guide but the instinct of the moment."
That most of French Socialists are among the middle classes... a tearful and sentimental Socialism. "Public opinion no longer knows anything but extreme sentiment or profound indifference. It is terribly feminine, and like a woman, has no control over its reflect movements."
That we must see in the crowd more than "the insatiable wild beast thirsting for blood and rapine. When we sound the subject a little we find on the contrary that the worst excesses of crowds have often arisen from extremely generous and disinterested ideas, and that the Crowd is as often victim as well as murderer."
"History can only be clearly understood if we bear in mind that that the morale and the conduct of the isolated manare very different to those of the same man when he has become part of a collectivity."
The Crowd as Sea "Their bursts of violence are like the tumultuous waves that the tempest rains on the surface of the ocean, but without troubling the serenity of its profounder waters... The Socialists imagine that they will easily carry the masses with them. They are wrong. They will very quickly discover that they will find among the masses, not their allies but their most implacable enemies. The crowd may doubtless in its anger
" Socialism is in fact nothing but the religion of the Stomach."
"There is nothing more feminine than the Gallic crowd."
Team Spirit "For a long time it has been remarked that in the football matches against English teams the French are always losers because the English player, preoccupied not with his personal success but with that of his team, passes the ball when he is unable to stick to it, while the French player holds it obstinately, preferring that his side should lose, rather than he should see the ball gained by a comrade."
THE INFLUENCE OF FRENCH FASCISM, ACTION FRANCAISE ON LEWIS' THOUGHT