The Artist’s Dilemma
In 1947, Boswell wrote a highly influential book, The Artist’s Dilemma. It was the first in a series which included Music by Thomas Russell, Ballet by Fernau Hall, The Book Front by Arthur Calder Marshall and The Use of Film by Basil Wright. Two others, Theatre and Education for Life didn’t materialise. The books were commissioned by Randall Swingler who managed a small publishing house but paper was in short supply in 1947 and he failed to get an adequate allocation so Allan Lane and The Bodley Head stepped in and published them instead.
The Dilemma was fundamental; work commercially or starve. Since it had become impossible to paint for pleasure and survive upon income from sales, it was necessary to discover a way of earning a living which didn’t compromise principles and left sufficient time to paint for pleasure and make occasional sales. Boswell disliked the whole concept of commercial art, knew there was no alternative and sought a solution. With hindsight, there was no solution.
He wrote disparagingly about commercial art in general and his distrust of art dealers. He loathed the huge, financial resources of the advertising industry which seduced artists from the straight and narrow. He worried about provincial art teachers, trapped in schools with elderly, conservative principals who persisted in maintaining the status quo, teachers who grew into elderly, conservative principals themselves because there was nowhere else to go. He was unhappy with specialist training in art schools, believing that more could be learned about drawing and design in a life class. Boswell bemoaned the pitifully small market for paintings and the habit of the buying public to spend their money on household gadgets instead. Above all, he berated the advertising industry who produced nothing of more than transient value although he excluded publishing and book production and forgave Shell and the London Passenger Transport Board, judging that Jack Beddington and Frank Pick got it right.
He got a lot off his chest and for the rest of his life he lived with his Dilemma. He worked commercially in order to paint and seldom compromised his principles.