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Anthony Blunt ‘The Mind in Chains’ 1937

In the post on the Victor Rothschild we mentioned that he had been at Cambridge with the art expert and spy Anthony Blunt. It is known that he lent Blunt £100 to buy a Poussin  which was sold for £100,000 50 years later as part of his estate. Anthony Blunt a Cambridge don by the early 1930s, was formally recruited to Soviet intelligence in 1937, according to recently released KGB documents, much later than earlier accounts. This explains the seemingly cavalier act of openly writing left-wing (Marxist) art polemic such as his 1937 essay 'Art Under Capitalism and Socialism' published in The Mind in Chains.

David Mcknight writes in Espionage and the Roots of the Cold War that- 
'Blunt's left wing articles, and his 1935 trip to the USSR, subsequently almost blew his cover. In 1939, as he took tentative steps toward his goal of penetrating British intelligence by joining in the Field Security Police, he was questioned about them. Again, wartime laxness saved the day. In any case Blunt was accepted into MI5 in 1940 where he soon transferred to his preferred section -- counter-espionage -- enabling him to report on measures against Soviet and German intelligence.'  Obviously no-one had closely read his piece in this red-jacketed book. Blunt writes:

  If an art is not contributing to the common good, it is bad art...The conception of a painting as a unique private possession will disappear, and there will be in its place the development of the idea of a great communal art such as existed in the Middle Ages. The easel painting, which was a particular art form involved at the time of the Renaissance when art became essentially private, will become of secondary importance, and instead mural painting  will be developed in a form suitable to the decoration of the communal buildings will be developed devoted to the culture and recreation of the workers... It will still of course be true that people will want something to decorate the walls of their homes, to which large-scale murals are not generally appropriate. This need will be apparently satisfied that the creation of what may be called publishing firms of painting, whose function it would be to commission originals in order to have copied in large quantities by some process of colour printing... By this method the idea of a unique original with great scarcity value would be avoided, and the original itself would probably be kept in the State Museum as a help in the training of other artists…'

Probably not views that he would have discussed at Buckingham Palace when he was keeper of the Queen's pictures...

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One thought on “Anthony Blunt ‘The Mind in Chains’ 1937

  1. R.M.Healey

    Sir Anthony had an astonishing intellect. I read somewhere that he got into Cambridge on a mathematics scholarship, but actually read modern languages. Beat that, Stephen Fry !
    Also, isn't there a art gallery in Bournemouth named after him ? Perhaps the funds from the Poussin went towards the building of this gallery.

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