Herbert Read was a Brisitsh art historian, poet, literary critic and philosopher, best known for numerous books on art, which included influential volumes on the role of art in education. Read was co-founder of the Institute of Contemporary Arts. As well as being a prominent English anarchist, he was one of the earliest English writers to take notice of existentialism.

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In his philosophical outlook, Read was close to the European idealist traditions represented by Friedrich Schelling, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, believing that reality as it is experienced by the human mind was as much a product of the human mind as any external or objective actuality. In other words, the mind is not a camera recording the reality it perceives through the eyes; it is also a projector throwing out its own reality. This meant that art was not, as many Marxists believed, simply a product of a bourgeois society, but a psychological process that had evolved simultaneously to the evolution of consciousness. Art was, therefore, a biological phenomenon, a view that frequently pitted Read against Marxist critics such as Anthony Blunt in the 1930s.

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