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Art and Architecture: Reith Lectures

The Sackler Library is the premier research library for the study of art and architecture at the University of Oxford. It incorporates the libraries formerly housed at the History of Art Department and the Ashmolean Museum.

Art & anarchy: lecture & publication

Edgar Wind's Reith Lectures

Edgar Wind banner

Edgar Wind portrait

 Edgar Marcel Wind
 Unknown photographer
© Warburg Institute, London

Reith Lectures, 1960

Edgar Wind was invited by the BBC to deliver its Reith Lectures in 1960. This series of radio lectures was inaugurated in 1948 to mark the contribution made to public service broadcasting by Sir John (later Lord) Reith, the BBC's first director-general. Wind chose as his topic “Art and Anarchy”.

The Reith Lectures were/are usually delivered live. Their tight format (28 minutes precisely) impeded Wind’s habitual free-flowing lecture-style, delivered with few notes. Instead, he was required to speak from a pre-written text. Lasting precisely 28 minutes each, Wind used these lectures as the basis of his highly influential book, Art and Anarchy, subsequently published in 1963. Each lecture evolved into one chapter of the published work:

    Art and anarchy
    Aesthetic participation
    Critique of connoisseurship
    The fear of knowledge
    The mechanization of art
    Art and the will

Recordings of only some of these lectures have survived, held by the BBC’s Archive.

Of the three surviving lectures (lectures 4, 5 and 6), the Sackler Library holds a digital copy of Art and the will.


Finding aid