February 01, 2007
On “Saul Steinberg: Illuminations” at the Morgan Library and Museum, New York.
On “Saul Steinberg: Illuminations” at the Morgan Library and Museum, New York.
The director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art talks with The New Criterion
“David Smith: A Centennial” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
On an unfortunate art world practice.
On Hilary Spurling’s Matisse the Master.
A review of Many Are Called, by Walker Evans, introduction by James Agee, foreword by Luc Sante, afterword by Jeff L. Rosenheim.
On the passing of Czeslaw Milosz, “a writer of multiple achievements but also a prophet of liberation for whom the individual exercise of disabused memory came to constitute a spiritual vocation.”
On Seurat and the Making of “La Grande Jatte” at the Art Institute of Chicago.
A review of Alfred Kazin’s America: Critical and Personal Writings, edited by Ted Solotaroff.
On the circle of modernist painters in Munich that came to be known as the Blue Rider.
The second in a series titled “Lengthened shadows.”
A review of Gulag: A History, by Anne Applebaum.
I observe a tendency since his death to estimate him in terms of the content of his books. .
A review of The Skeptic: A Life of H. L. Mencken by Terry Teachout
It is hard to tell if abstract painting actually got worse [after the 1960s], if it merely stagnated, or if it simply looked bad in comparison to the hopes its own accomplishments had raised. Frank Stella, Working Space, 1986 It must be acknowledged at the outset of these observations that the question of whether abstract art has a future is anything but new.
From a special summer issue of The New Criterion on the occasion of The Museum of Modern Art’s reopening in 1984 after the museum’s last round of major expansion.
On the writer, occasioned by the publication of D. S. Mirsky: A Russian-English Life, 1890-1939, by G. S. Smith.
A work of art is an infinitely complex focus of human experience. The mystery of its creation, its history, and the rise and fall of its esthetic, documentary, sentimental, and commercial values, the endless variety of its relationships to the other works of art, its physical condition, the meaning of its subject, the technique of its production, the purpose of the man who made it— all these factors lie behind a work of art, converge upon it, and challenge our powers of analysis and publication.
A review of Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe: Toward a Revival of Higher Education, by Jeffrey Hart.
A trip to the Tate Modern.
A review of A Life in the Twentieth Century: Innocent Beginnings, 1917-1950, by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
“L—d. ” said my mother, “what is all this story about.
On how we view the crimes of Communism
On The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000, at the Whitney Museum of American Art
On Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove
The second part of an examination of the artist’s place in the modernist tradition
The first part of an examination of the artist’s place in the modernist tradition
On Bonnard, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York
The first in a series titled The betrayal of liberalism
On George Segal, a Retrospective: Sculptures, Paintings, and Drawings, at the Jewish Museum, New York
On Fernand Léger at the Museum of Modern Art, New York
On the series directed by Alex Gibney & Tracy Dahlby, based on the book of the same title by David Halberstam
On Stanley Spencer: An English Vision at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.
A reprinting of Mr. Kramer’s 1976 article published in The New York Times
On the politics of abstract art in De Stijl
On the politics of abstract art in De Stijl
Odd Nerdrum: Paintings at the Forum Gallery, New York
Being the ninth in a series on The future of the European past,
On Exiles & Emigrés: The Flight of European Artists from Hitler at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art
On the show of late works at the Royal Academy of Arts
On Whittaker Chambers: A Biography by Sam Tanenhaus
On A Roger Fry Reader edited by Christopher Reed
On Degas: Beyond Impressionism at the Art Institute of Chicago
On Adolph Menzel 1815-1905: Between Romanticism & Impressionism at the National Gallery of Art, Washington
On A Partisan Century: Political Writings from Partisan Review edited by Edith Kurzweil
On Picasso & Portraiture: Representation & Transformation at the Museum of Modern Art, New York
On The Art of Thomas Wilmer Dewing: Beauty Reconfigured at the Brooklyn Museum
Nothing is more remarkable about the art of the last quarter-century than the diminished role played by abstraction in defining the course of contemporary artistic thought. Where abstraction had not so long before been the mark of an advanced aesthetic sensibility, it was now increasingly said by critics, curators, and artists of many different persuasions to represent a conservative or academic or even reactionary attitude toward art and culture.
It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of not looking sufficiently progressive. —Charles Péguy, Notre Patrie, 1905 It is a pity that no one has yet written a history of the progressive mind in America.
On The Private Worlds of Marcel Duchamp by Jerrold Seigel.
On “Piet Mondrian: 1872–1944” seen first at the Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague (December 18, 1994–April 30, 1995), then at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (June 11–September 4, 1995) and on view at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, from October 1, 1995, through January 23, 1996.
On the reality of the culture war in Britain and America.
On a new biography of Wilson by Jeffrey Meyers.
On Camille Pissarro: Impressionist Innovator at the Jewish Museum.
On Kandinsky: Compositions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
On the 110th annual convention of the Modern Language Association, in San Diego, California, December 1994.
Samuel Lipman, who served as the publisher of The New Criterion from its inception in September 1982 until his death on December 17, 1994, was one of the most remarkable figures of his generation in America. He was at once an artist and an intellectuala gifted pianist, a brilliant writer, an incisive critic, an inspiring teacher, an accomplished administrator, and, in his later years, a fiercely articulate participant in the controversies that have shaped the critical debate about the future of high culture in our tragically divided society.
When you think about it, department stores are kind of like museums. Andy Warhol Ones first impression of the Andy Warhol Museum is of a smart new specialty storenot exactly a department store, to be sure, but something on the scale of the old Henri Bendels on West Fifty-seventh Street in Manhattan or the new Barneys on Madison Avenue, only in this case distinctly downmarket and featuring but one line of goods: the artists reputation.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the dumbing down of our major cultural institutionswhat we used to be able to call without quotation marks elite cultural institutions. That the quotation marks are now necessary already speaks volumes about the degradation of American museums, orchestras, universities, publishing houses, public television, and seriousthat is, serious newspapers.
Reading The New Republic these days, I often think of the late Lionel Trilling. It was Trilling’s fondest wish to remain, in everything he thought and wrote, a paragon of enlightened liberalism.
Fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid. —Francis Bacon, in Essays (1625) No American painter of his generation— the generation that gave us the New York School—has been the object of more adulation, imitation, interpretation, and sheer unbounded admiration than Willem de Kooning, whose work is currently the subject of an exhibition marking the artist’s ninetieth birthday.
My brother Evgeni Yakovlovich used to say that the decisive part in the subjection of the intelligentsia was played not by terror and bribery (though, God knows, there was enough of both), but by the word “Revolution,” which none of them could bear to give up. It is a word to which whole nations have succumbed, and its force was such that one wonders why our rulers still needed prisons and capital punishment.
On Joseph Stella at the Whitney.
There is a passage in Hazlitt’s The Spirit of the Age—it comes in the essay on “The Late Mr. Horne Tooke”—that defines not only its eponymous subject but an entire class of failed writers.
In the annals of the twentieth-century avant-garde, the decade following upon the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and the Armistice of 1918 was distinguished by a significant shift in the relation of modernist art to radical politics. Briefly stated, it was a shift that brought about a close but uneasy and ultimately tragic alliance between modernism in the arts and socialism in politics.
On two New York Times memoirs, My “Times” by John Carey & Behind the “Times” by Edwin Diamond.
John Carey, the Merton Professor of English at Oxford University, has performed a remarkable feat. He has written a book called The Intellectuals and the Masses1 without once discussing Karl Marx.
On the Miró retrospective at MOMA.
On Mrs. Trilling’s memoir The Beginning of the Journey.
On the M.I.T. symposium The Public Patron: Drafting a Mandate for a Federal Arts Agency & related matters.
On Fairfield Porter: An American Painter at the Parrish Art Museum.
On The Fifties by David Halberstam.
The whole of the man was in the special work—he was all a writer, a critic, an appreciator. He was literary in every pulsation of his being, and he expressed himself totally in his literary life.
No art critic of our time has been the subject of more discussion than Clement Greenberg, who was born in 1909 and published the bulk of his critical writings between 1939 and 1969. Yet the nature of that discussion has at times been so contentious, not to say acrimonious, that the effect has been to obscure the virtues that made this criticism loom so large—and for so long a time—in the minds of both his admirers and his adversaries.
A review of The Rise & Fall of the Man of Letters by John Gross.
Some claim the best stopped writing first. For the others, no one noted when or why.
On Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy & Her World by Carol Brightman.
[Suprematism] will liberate all those engaged in creative activity and make the world into a true model of perfection. —El Lissitzky, 1920 Whereas the realist artists and those following similar trends … were less willing to greet the Revolution than those following new trends, the latter—whose nonrepresentational methods were very suitable for artistic industry and ornament—proved to be powerless to give psychological expression to the new content of the Revolution.
Sometimes it has been conceded that I have a certain technical ability but that all the same my ambition is limited, and does not go beyond the purely visual satisfaction such as can be obtained from looking at a picture. But the thought of a painter must not be considered as separate from his pictorial means, for the thought is worth no more than its expression by the means, which must be more complete (and by complete I do not mean complicated) the deeper is his thought.
The generation to which I belong has a bad conscience. —Marc Bloch, 1940 Picasso, Pablo.
Few American painters have been more articulate than Stuart Davis (1892-1964) about the purposes of their art, yet throughout a long and distinguished career as a champion of American modernism Davis was clearly troubled about the way he should best define his relation to the aesthetic issue that was paramount in his own work and that would become increasingly crucial to the modernist movement in this country—the issue of abstraction. There were moments in his later years—the period in which abstraction came to dominate American painting —when he simply disavowed all connection with abstract art.
With every passing day it becomes more and more apparent that the appointment two years ago of Kirk Varnedoe to the directorship of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art has placed this great institution in serious jeopardy. The evidence accumulates—and at an alarming speed—that Mr.
Lincoln Kirstein (born 1907) is one of the most remarkable figures in the cultural history of the modern era, not only in the United States but anywhere, and the new collection of his writings, which has been edited by Nicholas Jenkins, is therefore certain to be of great interest in many respects.  If only for his role in bringing George Balanchine to America and founding the New York City Ballet, Mr.
A modern literary intellectual lives and writes in constant dread—not, indeed, of public opinion in the wider sense, but of public opinion within his own group. As a rule, luckily, there is more than one group, but also at any given moment there is a dominant orthodoxy, to offend against which needs a thick skin and sometimes means cutting one’s income in half for years on end.
Of all the institutions of high culture that have undergone significant change in recent decades, none has been more radically transformed than the art museum. In every aspect of its function, its atmosphere, and its scale of operations, in the character and number of the events that it encompasses, in the nature and size of the public it attracts, and in the role it plays in codifying—and at times deconstructing—our ideas about what art is, the museum has been so dramatically altered in our lifetime that in many important respects it can no longer be said to be the same institution we came to in our youth.
Seurat knew many things, the sacred laws of common sense, which we neglect no doubt because they are too simple. That it is not instinct that composes, but intellect; that instinct—genius—proposes and the lucid mind disposes, composes, translates the impulse, the imperfectly formed, sketchy need that we call inspiration….
The exhibition called "Art of the Forties" at the Museum of Modern Art has come and gone without leaving much of a residue of discussion or debate.  For the public, it seems to have been taken as another easy dose of nostalgia for a period now mainly associated with old movies and World War II memorabilia.
On The Art of the Forties at MOMA.
On special-interest demands on curatorship.
The strong should go ahead and take what they want. —Picasso to Leo Stein, 1906.
There are careers in the arts that epitomize the spirit of their time in so many salient respects that they attain a kind of mythological status in the eyes of posterity. The life and work of the Russian painter Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935), whose art is currently the subject of an extraordinary exhibition, constitute a career of this sort.
"Approaching threescore and ten," as he writes in the preface to his Selected Writings 1950-1990, Irving Howe has assembled a capacious volume of his essays to give us what he describes as "a reasonably fair picture of an intellectual career spanning four decades. "1 Worth noting, perhaps, is the absence of any claim that the "picture" offered to us in this book is to be considered complete.
On the state of the arts in America circa 1990.
Of The Great Terror: A Reassessment by Robert Conquest.
On Four Decades of Polish Essays edited by Jan Kott.
On Photography Until Now at MOMA.
The article by Hilton Kramer entitled “Cynthia Ozick’s Farewell to T. S.
On Ozick’s essay T. S. Eliot at 101 in The New Yorker.
I can think of no group of people who have done more to hold our world together in these last years than you and your associates in the Congress [for Cultural Freedom]. In this country [the United States] in particular, few will ever understand the dimensions and significance of your accomplishment.
Of the many things to be said about the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts, which opened on the campus of Ohio State University on November 17, the first concerns its emblematic status. For the Wexner Center, designed by Peter Eisenman and built at a cost of forty-three million dollars, is no ordinary campus facility intended to bring a little leisure-time culture to the academy and its community.
On the book by Quentin Bell.
A few months hence we shall be observing the fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Horizon, the literary monthly which Cyril Connolly founded in London in the early months of the Second World War. We shall also be observing the fortieth anniversary of the magazine’s demise.
On Over Here: Modernism, the First Exile 1914-1919 at Brown University.
In certain modern careers the union of a keen aesthetic intelligence with the imperatives of a radical political commitment would appear to be so complete that there is hardly any way to separate the one from the other even for the purposes of analysis. Yet about such a union of art and politics there is nonetheless something that requires explanation—something that remains, if not exactly an enigma, then at least a paradox, the kind of paradox that illuminates not only the minds of the individuals in question but the larger contradictions that have been endemic to the phenomenon of avant-garde culture in bourgeois societies since the concept of the avant-garde first emerged in nineteenth-century France.
On 20th-Century Art: Selections for the Tenth Anniversary of the East Building at the National Gallery in Washington.
You might as well get one thing straight. .
For those who have followed the problem with the attention it demands, both the nature and the scale of the crisis that has overtaken the study of the arts and the humanities in our universities have now been made vividly and painfully manifest. The subject has become a matter of (albeit muddied) debate in the media, it has won the attention of government agencies, it has produced some best-selling books, and—it is my impression, anyway—it has caused a more acute feeling of anxiety, at times amounting to panic, among the educated parents of high school- and college-age students than anything that has occurred in American life since the Vietnam war.
Every challenge to painting is a paradox—from the moment that challenge is expressed in a work. —Joan Miró, in 1962 It has long been known to observers of the modern movement in art that the central pattern of its aesthetic development has been that of a dialectic in which every heretical impulse has served as the prologue to a new orthodoxy.
The impulse, to look back upon halcyon days—to seize upon a treasured moment in history when every promise of an ardently desired change in all aspects of life seemed not only infinitely fulfillable but virtually irresistible—is one that we are all prone to in periods of disillusionment and disarray. But some sensibilities are more susceptible than others to this tendency to locate in a distant past the moment of optimum possibility, and it is my impression, anyway, that nowadays it is our aging radicals who find this impulse both especially tempting and especially necessary.
I. The Gauguin myth in the age of media hype The process by means of which certain artists—certain modern artists particularly— attain a mythical status that transcends all aesthetic considerations is one that is so familiar to us that we hardly any longer pay it much attention.
On Russian & Soviet Paintings 1900–1930 at the Hirshhorn Museum.
In our issue for March 1988, The New Criterion published an article called “Thinking about ‘Witness’” by Hilton Kramer. In the course of Mr.
From time to time we are given a new book that so vividly illuminates the intellectual ground we stand on that it instantly acquires the status of an emblematic event. As far as the study of art history is concerned, and more particularly, what has gone wrong with it, I believe we have now been given such a book in Professor Svetlana Alpers’s Rembrandt’s Enterprise: The Studio and the Market.
Almost all of the prophecies of Marx and bis followers have already proved to be false, but this does not disturb the spiritual certainty of the faithful, any more than it did in the case of chiliastic sects: fir it is a certainty not based on any empirical premises or supposed “historical laws,” but simply on the psychological need for certainty. In this sense Marxism performs the function of a religion, and its efficacy is of a religious character.
It was to be expected that the Anselm Kiefer retrospective, which opened at the Art Institute of Chicago in December, would be accorded a rapturous reception, and so it has been.  Throughout the nineteen-eighties, as the art market soared and an almost unencompassable quantity of meretricious painting glutted the galleries, the museums, and the public consciousness, the emergence of a new master—an artist who could be seen as transcending the more compromising scenarios of the new art scene—was anxiously awaited.
On The Last Intellectuals by Russell Jacoby.
On the traveling exhibition Morality Tales: History Painting in 1980s.
One of my unarguable postulates about aesthetics is that life mimics art, not art life. —Kenneth Tynan, in He That Plays the King (1950) Occupation: Opinion-monger, observer of artistic phenomena, amateur ideologue.
My aim is to show that we have entered a period of post-historical art, where the need for constant self-revolutionization of art is now past. There can and should never again be anything like the astonishing sequence of convulsions that have defined the art history of our century.
From a special issue printed in the Summer of 1987 entitled “Our Campaigns.” Issue includes a chronicle of the years 1902-1929 by Rona Roob, a biographical chronicle of Alfred H. Barr, Jr. and the Museum of Modern Art by Margaret Scolari Barr accompanied by photographs, and an introduction by Hilton Kramer.
On the new National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington.
The death of Andy Warhol was bound to be a media event, and so it was. For the media, after all, it was like a death in the family.
The exhibition called “The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985,” which Maurice Tuchman has organized with the assistance of Judi Freeman at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is the kind of event that illuminates a good deal more than its ostensible theme.  The theme itself—the role played by certain occult or spiritualist doctrines in the creation of abstract painting from its origins to the present day—is an important one, and in recent years we have had ample opportunity to become better acquainted with it as more and more scholars have explored the often arcane ideas which are believed to have exerted a considerable influence on the aesthetics of abstraction.
To the Editors: I just finished reading Hilton Kramer’s piece on Richard Gilman’s true confessions (February, 1987) and was especially interested in Mr. Kramer’s faulting most recent books of this genre for their superficial perceptions.
folly . .
The point is that most Western intellectual autobiographies, apart from the writings of revolutionaries in whom the life was subordinate to the action in the world, have been luxury items. —Richard Gilman, in The Confusion of Realms (1969) Reading the memoirs of one’s own contemporaries is always, I suppose, a vexing experience.
With the publication of the first two volumes of Clement Greenberg’s Collected Essays and Criticism, we are at last on our way to having a comprehensive edition of the most important body of art criticism produced by an American writer in this century.  The two volumes now available— Perceptions and Judgments, 1939-1944 and Arrogant Purpose, 1945-1949—bring together for the first time Mr.
With the death of Henry Moore on August 31, our last living link with the world of Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, of Ezra Pound and Roger Fry—the world of the London avant-garde in the years just before and after the First World War—has passed from the scene. Moore often spoke of what it had meant to him to have stumbled upon Fry’s Vision and Design, with its great essays on “Negro Sculpture” and “Ancient American Art,” while he was still a student at the Leeds School of Art.
It was to be expected that the collapse of the intellectual Left in France—the virtual extinction there of Marxism and its ideological variants as a source of fashionable ideas —would sooner or later be reflected in the attitudes of those American intellectuals who habitually take their political cues from Paris. The only question that remained to be answered was: What form would this inevitable shift in political attitudes take on this side of the Atlantic.
From a special issue printed in the Summer of 1986 entitled “New York in the Eighties, a symposium.” Contributors include Hortense Calisher, Chuck Close, Arlene Croce, Clement Greenberg, Mark Helprin, Ada Louise Huxtable, Richard Koshalek, Mimi Kramer, Samuel Lipman, Jed Perl, William Phillips, Alan Rich, Larry Rivers, Barbara Rose, William Schuman, Gerard Schwarz, Hugo Weisgall, & Leon Wieseltier. With an introduction by Hilton Kramer.
On Prodigal Sons by Alexander Bloom.
The Richard Serra exhibition which has come to the Museum of Modern Art this spring is an event bound to disturb—perhaps even infuriate—a great many more people than it pleases.  In this respect, as in others, the exhibition is completely faithful to the spirit of Mr.
There is no figure in the history of twentieth-century art more difficult to keep in proper focus than the avid collector—the kind of collector, that is, who specializes in the acquisition of contemporary art. To this strange, hardy breed—more often ridiculed and maligned than admired or understood— we obviously owe much.
On Fredric Jameson, Roger Starr, Daniel Bell et al.
It was to be expected that the opening of the Musée Picasso in Paris would be a capital event, and so it has turned out to be. No secret had been made of the number and quality of the works of art which had come to the museum from the artist’s estate.
There are artists who, although not perhaps of the very highest order, nonetheless define issues and create a vision so central to the aesthetic dilemmas of their time that they come to occupy a place and to exert an influence out of all proportion to the scale of their actual achievement. Kurt Schwitters, whose work is currently the subject of a major retrospective exhibition, is a figure of this sort.
On Michael Graves’s design for a new Whitney Museum.
From a special issue printed in the Summer of 1985 entitiled “The Arts in America: 1945-1985.” Issue includes special essays by Hilton Kramer, Bruce Bawer, Samuel Lipman, and Robert Richman.
It was inevitable, perhaps, that the headline on The New York Times’s front-page obituary of Marc Chagall would describe him as “One of Modern Art’s Giants. ” This was the status which the press had routinely conferred upon the artist for as long as anyone could remember, and it would have been churlish—if not something worse—to deny him this outsize claim on the occasion of his death at the age of ninety-seven.
The exhibition which Christian Derouet has organized at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum under the title, “Kandinsky in Paris: 1934-1944,” is the third and final installment in the retrospective series which the museum has devoted to this artist over a period of three years.
The question is, finally: how could there be an effective political art. Is not the whole thing a chimaera, a dream, incompatible with the basic conditions of artistic production in the nineteenth century—easel painting, privacy, isolation, the art market, the ideology of individualism.
To mark the publication of Ann Lee Morgan’s Arthur Dove: Life and Work, With a Catalogue Raisonné, three New York galleries—Dintenfass, Mathes, and Salander-O’Reilly—recently joined in mounting what was described as “an overall view” of Dove’s paintings, watercolors, drawings, and collages.  It is welcome news that at long last— nearly forty years after his death—we have been given a catalogue raisonné of the work of this distinguished American painter.
To the Editors: I found your article about Lillian Hellman (“The Death and Life of Lillian Hellman,” October, 1984) dishonest, unfair, and (to use your own word) malevolent toward her. You accuse her and denounce her without saying where this happened: “She took revenge upon her anti-Stalinist adversaries as soon as she felt rich enough and powerful enough to do so.
On “Primitivism in 20th-Century Art” at MOMA.
In the course of a long article in these pages (“Who was Josephine Herbst. ” September 1984), written on the occasion of Elinor Lander’s recently published biography, I raised certain questions about the role played in the life and work of Josephine Herbst by her steadfast loyalty to Stalinist causes.
I am not interested in the degree to which she told the literal truth. —Marsha Norman, in The New York Times (August 26, 1984) I never took Lillian’s politics very seriously .
Condemn the fault and not the actor of it. —Measure for Measure There is a passage in an essay by Henry James—it occurs in the obituary article he wrote on “Dumas the Younger” in 1895— which defines very exactly the feeling we are likely to experience when, at a certain age, we see the people we have known and who have meant a good deal to us pass away and become in death something very different from what they were in life, both in their own lives and in ours.
From a special issue printed in the Summer of 1984 regarding the reopening of the MOMA. Issue includes a special essay by Hilton Kramer, photographs by John T. Hill, and a collection of images from a MOMA exhibition.
”It is assuredly a new MOMA that we have now been given-a museum not only greatly enlarged physically but significantly altered in its general outlook and spirit.”
On The Democratic Muse by Edward C. Banfield.
To the Editors: It was called to my attention recently that Hilton Kramer in “The MLA Centennial Follies,” had attributed a remark to me that I found, when I looked it up on page four of the February issue of The New Criterion, did not represent at all accurately what I had said in my talk at the Modern Language Association. As one can see from the typescript of the talk I gave, I made a generalization about every person who was once a young Turk becoming, by the simple process of time, an old fogey.
That’s not painting, what he does. —Picasso on Bonnard The great art event in Paris this spring has been the resplendent Bonnard exhibition at Beaubourg.
On Excellence: Theory & Practice in the Humanities, a speech by Irving Howe at the New York Public Library.
It is understood by now that all art is ideological and all art is used politically by the right or the left, with the conscious and unconscious assent of the artist. There is no neutral zone.
Some time in the month of May—barring, of course, yet another postponement—the Museum of Modern Art will reopen its doors and give us a first glimpse of what our “new” MoMA is going to look like for the remaining years of the twentieth century. The museum has been closed to the public since January.
’Tis hard to say, if greater want of skill Appear in writing or in judging ill; But, of the two, less dang’rouse is th’ offence To tire our patience, than mislead our sense. —Alexander Pope, in “An Essay on Criticism” It had been a good many years since fortune had first brought us to enter the labyrinthine purlieus of the Modern Language Association’s annual convention, and memories of our early experience of that event were not so redolent of pleasure—or, for that matter, of intelligence and enlightenment—that we had reason to feel a keen sense of regret over the many meetings we had missed in the interval.
On the revival of interest in the Bloomsbury Group.
On the NEA fellowships for art critics.
On Grant Wood at the Whitney.
In America, whose second name, I sometimes think, should be “amnesia,” the historical sense in this century chronically suffers one lesion after another as literary periods crowd each other out with extreme celerity, each presenting itself as the culmination of the imaginative process of all times. In consequence our literary world is afflicted with an acute loss of memory ….
There is a sense in which the contemporary retrospective exhibition—especially a retrospective devoted to the work of a living artist or of an artist only recently deceased—is almost as much of a “creation” as any of the objects it is designed to display. There is usually no question of such an exhibition being complete.
On the Tate exhibition.
Nothing in the recent antics of American publishing has been quite as spectacular, or quite as revealing, as the swift and ignominious collapse of the new Vanity Fair just as the magazine's third issue was reaching disgruntled subscribers in the last week of April. It was already apparent in February, when the inaugural (March) issue made its appearance, that something had gone seriously wrong with this project to revive a magazine that had become something of a myth in publishing circles since it suspended publication nearly half a century ago.
On the Porter retrospective at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
A retrospective exhibition devoted to the work of an immensely gifted artist who died at an early age is bound to be an experience of special poignancy. The more we admire the work, the more likely we are to be haunted by thoughts of what the artist might have accomplished in the course of a normal life span.
At the time of his accidental death in 1965, David Smith was regarded by his many admirers—this writer among them—as the pre-eminent American sculptor of his generation. Some of us went even further and proclaimed him to be the greatest of all American sculptors, and one of the few American artists of his time whose work could claim a place beside that of the great European modernists.
A review of A Margin of Hope by Irving Howe.
With the death of Dwight Macdonald on December 19, the surviving remnant of the old Partisan Review circle has been deprived of its most ebullient spirit. Macdonald was the most famous as well as the most brilliant and admired journalist to emerge from that circle, and he was in certain respects the most exotic of the many talents that it nurtured.
More than twenty years ago—in the fall of 1960—Martin L. Friedman organized an exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis that significantly altered our perspective on American art between the two World Wars.
The fact is, that both finish and impetuosity, specific minuteness and large abstraction, may be signs of passion, or of its reverse; may result from affection or indifference, intellect or dulness. Now both the finish and incompletion are right where they are signs of passion or of thought, and both are wrong, and I think the finish the more contemptible of the two, where they cease to be so.
A review of The Art Presence by Sanford Schwartz.
We live now amidst the ruins of a civilization, but most of these ruins are in our minds. —John Lukacs, The Passing of the Modern Age We do not nowadays refute our predecessors, we pleasantly bid them good-bye.
Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) was at once the most powerful and the most problematic American painter of his generation. In his lifetime he was also one of the most isolated.