Alf Corlett (text)

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Art of the Invisible (1977)

This Edition

Art of the Invisible
Published1977 First editionYes
FormatSoftcover (210 x 210mm) Edition
PublisherBede Gallery Printing
ISBN Printed byE.F. Peterson & Son
Series No of pages107


Catalogue for the exhibition Art of the Invisible, which was first held at the Bede Gallery in Jarrow, Tyne and Wear (UK) in 1977, featuring works by William Blake, Piet Mondrian and Wassily Kandinsky, among others, alongside original watercolours that were made as illustrations for C.W. Leadbeater's book Man Visible and Invisible (1902), and his and Anne Besant's Thought Forms (1905), as well as samples of Eastern spiritual art and Kirlian photography. The catalogue text, by Alf Corlett, sketches the precursors, the history and the main figures of Theosophy, and documents the influence that its concepts have had on the development of abstract art.
    The exhibition travelled around Britain* and was staged at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London as The Art of the Invisible: the spiritual in art -- the art of the spiritual from 3 April - 6 May 1979†, where 10 of Benjamin Creme's symbolic paintings were included.‡ Events surrounding the London exhibition included talks about spirituality, which were well attended but, according to the artist, did not receive any press coverage. No separate catalogue is known to have been published for the expanded London show, but a leaflet was included listing talks by Benjamin Creme, Mark Braham, Sir George Trevelyan, Claude Curling, Warren Kenton, and Cecil Collins.

While researching material for this exhibition organiser Vince Rea uncovered thirty-seven original watercolours and sketches at the Theosophical Society's archives in Adyar (India) which artist John Varley had painted for the Leadbeater and Besant books.
    In Part 7, Chapter 5 of her biography HPB -- The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky (1993) Sylvia Cranston gives a concise and documented overview of how HPB's work has influenced modern art.

Includes 5 text illustrations (1 in colour) and 60 illustrations (28 in colour) on 53 plates. The illustration on the cover is 'Radiating Affection' from Leadbeater and Besant's Thought Forms.

This exhibition was one of the sources of inspiration for the major international exhibition The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985 that was held in Los Angeles, Chicago and The Hague between 1986 and 1987, and from which Benjamin Creme's work was conspicuously missing. In an interview with a local London newspaper (see link below), Benjamin Creme hints at the reason for this: "'I'm a painter. I'm unknown,' he says. 'But through this story [i.e. announcing the imminent emergence of the World Teacher] I've become known. Maybe disbelieved, but known.'"

* According to Adam McLean in Hermetic Journal Vol.23, Spring 1984, p.8.
† Notice of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London 1979.
‡ As listed in the England & Co catalogues for Benjamin Creme's 1988 and 1992 solo exhibitions, in which this exhibition is incorrectly referred to as The Invisible in Art.


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