A quadrumvirate

March 2 2010

When I was a boy, the educated English middle class was loyal to some figures of what was a presumed “great tradition” of “English” culture. Who was the great modern poet? TS Eliot. The sculptor? Henry Moore. The painter? Graham Sutherland. The composer? Benjamin Britten. They were a quadrumvirate.

For this section of a by modern standards spartan class, whose festivals were musical (Aldeburgh and Glyndebourne) and whose members would meet in each other’s houses for “drinks”, consumed standing, before they returned to their own for Sunday lunches, those figures were reference-points.

The novelist? This was already less clear. Greene? Snow? Snow even after Leavis?

Sutherland and Britten came together at Coventry Cathedral in 1962, at an event which was the high point of this phase of culture.

Here is a BBC television Monitor documentary on Moore from 1960, along with much more on Moore from their archive.

5 Responses to “A quadrumvirate”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    You couldn’t call Greene, far less Snow, an artist on the level of the other four. Nor did either occupy the same social space. Nor did Waugh.

  2. davidderrick Says:

    Michael Tanner on the War Requiem in the current Spectator: “Classy kitsch”.


  3. […] composed the War Requiem mainly in 1961 for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral on May 30 1962, after the fourteenth-century cathedral was destroyed in a bombing raid on the night […]

  4. davidderrick Says:

    John Piper had painted the cathedral when it was a ruin and designed the coloured Baptistery window.


  5. […] A quadrumvirate (old post). […]


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