Notebook, 1993 -



Photographs from: 'The Critic Sees: A Century of Art Criticism' [Archives of American Art] Above: Ad Reinhardt in his studio, 1953, photo by Walter Rosenblum, Thomas Hess papers

NOTE: This site continues to develop:


Approaches [Traditions, Concerns, Ideas, Theories, Styles . . . . Methods, Historic Trends, Cultural or Geographic Perspectives . . . . Revisions . . . . Philosophy, Aims, Preferences, Outlook, Impressions . . . .]

'20th c. Artists on Art' [Ashton, Dore, ed. Twentieth-Century Artists on Art. New York: Pantheon Books. 1985.]

In The Words of. . . . [From: Ferrier, Jean-Louis, Director and Yann le Pichon, Walter D. Glanze [English Translation]. Art of Our Century, The Chronicle of Western Art, 1900 to the Present. New York: Prentice-Hall Editions. 1988.]

'Aesthetics of Chaosmos' [Eco, Umberto. The Aesthetics of Chaosmos. The Middle Ages of James Joyce. Translated from the Italian by Ellen Esrock. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press. 1989.]

'American Art Criticism, 1910-1939' [Petruck, Peninah R. Y. American Art Criticism 1910-1939. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1981. The history of American art criticism from the Armory Show through the end years of the Depression - Background Ideas [Robert Henri, Alfred Stieglitz] -The Armory Show Years [Christian Brinton, James Huneker, Frank Mather] - The Twenties [Henry McBride, Forbes Watson] - The Thirties [Thomas Craven, George L. K. Morris]

'Anatomy of Criticism' [Four Essays, Northrop Frye. " . . . . All the essays deal with criticism, but by criticism I mean the whole work of scholarship and taste concerned with literature which is a part of what is variously called liberal education, culture, or the study of the humanities. I start from the principle that criticism is not simply a part of this larger activity, but an essential part of it.The subject-matter of literary criticism is an art, and criticism is evidently something of an art too. This sounds as though criticism were a parasitic form of literary expression, an art based on pre -existing art, a second-hand imitation of creative power. On this theory critics are intellectuals who have a taste for art but lack both the power to produce it and the money to patronize it, and thus form a class of cultural middlemen, distributing culture to society at a profit to themselves while exploiting the artist and increasing the strain on his public. The conception of the critic as a parasite or artist manqu� is still very popular, especially among artists. It is sometimes reinforced by a dubious analogy between the creative anf the procreative functions, so that we hear about the "impotence" and "dryness" of the critic, of his hatred for genuinely creative people, and so on. The golden age of anticritical criticism was the latter part of the nineteenth century, but some of its prejudices are still around. However, the fate of art that tries to do without criticism is instructive. The attempt to reach the public directly through "popular" art assumes that criticism is artificial and public taste natural. Behind this is a further assumption about natural taste which goes back through Tolstoy to Romantic theories of a spontaneously creative "folk." These theories have had a fair trial; they have not stood up very well to the facts of literary history and experience, and it is perhaps time to move beyond them. An extreme reaction against the primitive view, at one time associated with the " art for art�s sake' catchword, thinks of art in precisely the opposite terms, as a mystery, an initiation into an esoterically civilized community. Here criticism is restricted to ritual Masonic gestures, to raised eyebrows and cryptic comments and other signs of an understanding too occult for syntax. The fallacy common to both attitudes is that of a rough correlation between the merit of art and the degree of public response to it, though the correlation assumed is direct in one case and inverse in the other. One can find examples which appear to support both these views; but it is clearly the simple truth that there is no real correlation either way between the merits of art and its public reception. Shakespeare was more popular than Webster, but not because he was a greater dramatist; Keats was less popular than Montgomery, but not because he was a better poet. Consequently there is no way of preventing the critic from being, for better or worse, the pioneer of education and the shaper of cultural tradition." [Canadian literary critic, b. Quebec. In 1948 he was appointed professor of English at Victoria College, of which he later became principal [1959-66]. He is the author of FEARFUL SYMMETRY [1947], an authoritative study of William Blake's symbolism and religious mysticism, and of ANATOMY OF CRITICISM [1957], a synoptic view of the principles and techniques of literary criticism. His other major works include THE WELL-TEMPERED CRITIC [1963] and two collections of his lectures: A NATURAL PERSPECTIVE [1965] and THE MODERN CENTURY [1967]. Frye edited ROMANTICISM RECONSIDERED [1968], a collection of lectures. See study by Ronald Bates [1971]. [Harris, William H., and Judith S. Levey, eds. The New Columbia Encyclopedia. New York and London: Columbia University Press, 1975.]

'Art & Culture' [Greenberg, Clement. Art and Culture, Critical essays. Boston: Beacon Press. 1961] "The pieces collected in this book appeared originally in Partisan Review, The Nation, Commentary, Arts [formerly Art Digest ], Art News and The New Leader. Few reappear unaltered. Where revision has not changed the substance of what is said, I have felt free to append the date of first publication alone. Where revision has affected substance, I have in some cases given both the date of first publication and that of revision; and in other, more radical cases, only the latter. This book is not intended as a completely faithful record of my activity as a critic. Not only has much been altered, but much more has been left out than put in. I would not deny being one of those critics who educate themselves in public, but I see no reason why all the haste and waste involved in my self-education should be preserved in a book. Clement Greenberg." [From the Preface]

'Art & Man' [Clementina Anstruther-Thomson. Art & Man: Essays & Fragments. Introduction by Vernon Lee. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press. 1924. Reprinted 1969.]

'The Arts' [Munro, Thomas. The Arts - And Their Interrelations. Cleveland: The Press of Western Reserve University. 1967.] "The arts change, and so do ideas about them. Some old arts, like mosaic and tapestry, have declined. New ones, like the motion picture, have grown extensively. Old arts are combined in new forms, as in the sound film made from 'animated' paintings, with synchronized music and speech. New uses are made of old arts, in industry, commerce, and political propaganda. Applied science and machine industry have altered the methods, materials, and products of all the arts. Styles and standards are changed by revivals and exotic importations, such as the present strong influence of oriental and primitive arts. Trends in social organization and theory, in religion, philosophy, and ethics, alter one's views about the functions and values of art and about the relative importance of past artists and their works . . . . This book is a general survey of the arts and of ideas about them.... Special attention is paid throughout to problems of definition and classification, not in a merely verbal, pedantic spirit, but as a necessary step to clear understanding of the facts themselves . . . . " T.M. The Cleveland Museum of Art. March 1949. [p. v]

'Blake's Theory of Art' [Eaves, Morris, [1944-]. William Blake's Theory of Art. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, c1982. [SERIES - Princeton essays on the arts] - "I began--more than a decade ago--by trying to explain the medium that Blake calls "illuminated books" in "illuminated printing." Quickly I was out of my depth in problems of poetry, art, commerce, technology, and science. Moving against those original problems by digging deeper, I found that progress came only with simultaneous retrogression--what Blake's scientific contemporary Gauss must have experienced if he said, as reported, that he had the solution but did not yet know how he was going to arrive at it. Sailing backwards, I regressed from context to context so far that I landed where this book begins--on the shore where devouring classicisms encounter prolific romanticisms--with a goal almost too clearly set: to define Blake's ideas of the artist, then of the work of art, and finally of the audience; and thus to establish with some system and documentation what had previously been established piecemeal, the rudiments, structure, and implications of Blake's artistic theory in its most informative contexts . . . . " [From the Introduction]


'Critical Historians' [Podro, Michael. The Critical Historians of Art. New Haven: Yale Uiversity Press. 1982. The present book examines a central tradition within the literature of the visual arts. The foundation of that tradition lay in German philosophical aesthetics of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century and it stretches from roughly 1827 to 1927, from the writing of Hegel and Rumohr to that of Riegl, W�lfflin, Warburg and Panofsky.]

'Discovering the Present' [Rosenberg, Harold. Discovering the Present. Three Decades in Art, Culture, and Politics. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press. 1973. "The Cultural Situation Today - The cultural revolution of the past hundred years has petered out. Only conservatives believe that subversion is still being carried on in the arts and that society is being shaken by it. Today's aesthetic vanguardism is being sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, by state arts councils, by museums, by industrial and banking associations. Foundation grants are made to underground films and magazines, to little-review contributors, to producers of happenings and electronic music, to the Merce [p. ix] Cunningham dance group. The art-historical media have become thoroughly blended with the mass media and with commercial design and decoration under the slogan of community art programs. Reciprocally, commercial movies, thrillers, even TV advertising spots have become so daringly experimental in the formal sense as to elicit not the comprehension of a message but the immediate total response of a work of art . . . . "[This piece appeared in the summer 1972 issue ofPartisan Review as a part of a symposium, "Art, Culture, and Conservatism."]


Evaluation / perspective


'History of Criticism' [Venturi, Lionello. History of Art Criticism. Translated from the Italian by Charles Marriott. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc. 1936.] " . . . . The moment has come, then, to complete a revision of the directive standards of the history of art and to reflect upon the relations between art history, art criticism and aesthetics. Recently an authoritative voice in France has insisted upon the differentiation of the three disciplines. The history of art should present works of art--all the works of art--without judging them, without commenting upon them, with the richest possible documentation of the facts. Art criticism should judge works of art in conformity with the aesthetic feeling of the critic. Aesthetics should formulate the definition of art in its universal meaning. But it is evident that to distinguish thus the three disciplines succeeds in nothing but to empty them of all sense. In fact, as political history cannot be conceived without the control of a theory [p. 23] which serves to choose and interpret the facts which it needs to expound, and to neglect the infinity of facts of no importance, and so speaks of Bismarck and not of his porter; as the history of philosophy has need also of a theory of philosophy which serves as a standard to reject all the fantastic ideas which it has pleased humanity to invent; so art history has need of a theory which will allow it to distinguish whether a picture or a statue is a work of art--an artistic creation--or a rational, economical or moral fact. Similarly, if the critic is to obey only his own feeling it is preferable that he should hold his tongue; because, if he has renounced all theory, he cannot know whether his aesthetic feeling has more value than that of the man in the street. Finally, an aesthetics which ignored all the concrete artistic creations could be nothing but an intellectual game, not science and not a philosophy. Besides, in order to grasp the absurdity of such distinctions, it is only necessary to recall the principle of Kant, according to which every concept without intuition is empty and every intuition without concept is blind. . . . . I am aware that some of my affirmations may be hard to understand, for they are founded on the idealistic thought, which, while it is familiar in Italy, is unusual in America. May I ask you not to renounce reading this book if the first chapter would prove quite difficult to interpret? Please read the chapters that follow, for you will find that the historical information contained therein will justify the theoretic ideas to which the first chapter is the key., and perhaps you will be tempted to reread it, in which event you may even admit that this book contributes to the understanding of art . . . . "

'The Interpretation of Art' [Fishman, Solomon. Essays on the Art Criticism of John Ruskin, Walter Pater, Clive Bell, Roger Fry and Herbert Read. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press. 1963.

Judgment [Aristostle] [" . . . . Lastly, all judgments or propositions and therefore all the syllogisms are supported by certain basic principles, respected by every man, who maintains that he thinks logically. These principles are four in number: identity, contradiction, the adequate word, and the excluded third . . . . "

'Laocoön' [Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim. Laocoön, An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry. Translated, with an Introduction and Notes, by Edward Allen McCormic. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1962. Originally published, 1766.] "The first person to compare painting with poetry was a man of fine feeling who observed that both arts produced a similar effect upon him. Both, he felt, represent absent things as being present and appearance as reality. Both create an illusion, and in both cases the illusion is pleasing. A second observer, in attempting to get at the nature of this pleasure, discovered that both proceed form the same source. Beauty, a concept which we first derive from physical objects, has general rules applicable to a number of things: to actions and thoughts as well as to forms. A third, who examined the value and distribution of these general rules, observed that some of them are more predominant in painting, others in poetry . Thus, in the one case poetry can help to explain and illustrate painting, and in the other painting can do the same for poetry The first was the amateur, the second the philosopher, and the third the critic . . . . " [From the Preface]

'Living with Art' [Gilbert, Rita and William McCarater. Living with Art. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1985, 1988.] "[This book intends to] present some guidelines that will help individual viewers to make up their own minds. It will show what some people have considered to be art in different times and places, and what some people consider to be art now. With this information, the viewer should be able to make a better judgment about "What is art for me?"

'On Mass Communication' - Bomberger, Russell B. Assistant Prof. of English, US Naval Post Graduate School, Monterey, CA. 'Mass Communications Trends.' In Concern, a service of the General Board of Christian Social Concerns of the Methodist Church. Vol. 4, No. 8 April 15, 1962; Caruso, Denise. "Digital Commerce, Linking Entertainment to Violence." In The New York Times [online], April 26, 1999.

'On Rationality' [Nozick, Robert. The Nature of Rationality. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press. 1993. " . . . . 'The Nature of Rationality', Mr. Nozick's latest book, and his most narrowly focused one, happily and untypically manages to concentrate on one topic. One topic, but not just one discipline. The theory of rationality touches many areas of probability: economics, decision theory, anthropology, psychology, biology and computer science. Mr. Nozick pokes into many of them. His learning is deep enough to stop such forays from degenerating into the farces of multidisciplinary cross-dressing that they can easily become in lesser hands. The questions he addresses are fundamental in the true philosophical sense: Why exactly should we want to act and believe rationally? Why should we formulate principles of action and try to stick to them? The questions are not moral but explicatory. He is not out to argue that unprincipled or irrational behavior is immoral; rather, he invites us to consider what we are trying to do, and what the justification for such behavior is. He argues, plausibly, that "principles... provide one means to control and reshape our desires." Among his other main philosophical questions are: What is the connection between rational belief and rational action? And what is the relevance of the fact that rationality is something that has evolved?" [From: Gottlieb, Anthony. "Why Do You Do the Things You Do? A Harvard Philosopher takes a new look at decision theory and other disciplines." In Book Review, New York Times, August 22, 1993. P. 11.]

Critical Thinking on the Web - "This site aims to gather in one place links to all the most useful critical thinking resources on the web. [Tim van Gelder, Uiverrsity of Melbourne]

'Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience' [Casey, Edward S., and Albert A Anderson, Willis Domingo, Leon Jacobson. The Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience. Evanston: Northwestern University Press. 1973.] "The Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience capped one of the most remarkable decades in the history of modern philosophy. Its publication exactly twenty years ago in 1953 marked the end of ten years of intensive and unusually productive philosophical activity in France. These years opened with the appearance of Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness in 1943, and they witnessed, in rapid succession, Raymond Polin's The Creation of Values [1944], Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception [1945], Humanism and Terror [1947], and Sense and Nonsense [1948], Paul Ricoeur's Freedom and Nature [1950], Gabriel Marcel's Mystery of Being [1951], and Sartre's Saint Gen�t [1952].

'Poets on Painters' [McClatchy, J. D. Poets on Painters. Essays on the Art of Painting by Twentieth-Century Poets. Berlely: University of California Press. 1988.] "It could be argued that modern poetry was invented by the painters. Certainly when in 1913 Ezra Pound reviled the mannered blur of Victorian verse and called for the "shock and stroke" of a new poetry based on the image, he defined it with a canvas in mind: "An 'Image' is that which presents an intellectual an emotional complex in an instant of time." Only such an image, such a poetry, could give us "that sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art." [By "Greats," Pound means both oldest and newest, both Giotto and Gaudier-Breska.] All the paraphernalia of modernism, in fact, seems largely pictorial. The convulsive energy of the high modernist poetry, its use of collage and cubist fractioning, its vers libre expressivity, its sense of the natural object as adequate symbol, of technique as content, of organic form of dissociation and dislocation--these derive from the example of painters. When Pound demanded "direct treatment of the 'thing,'" and William Carlos Williams urged "no ideas but in things," the thing they had in their mind's eye might as well have been the painter's motif . . . . " [From the Preface, p. xi]

Reviews [Selection by field or discipline]

'Roger Fry. Vision and Design' [Bullen, J. B., ed. Roger Fry. Vision and Design. London: Oxford Univ. P Ress. 1981.] ". . . . What do we see when we look at a picture? Do we see the objects painted in pictures in the same way as we see them in real life? How is it that the calm passivity of a still life can stir us more deeply than all the noisy action of a battle-piece? How do we respond to the works of art from cultures about which we know nothing? When Roger Fry asked himself questions like this he was not posing academic puzzles. All through his life he thought of himself as a painter first and as a critic second, so every time he picked up his brush he was faced, as generations of painters before him had been faced, with the curious and paradoxical relationship between art and life.The fact that Fry was a painter explains a great deal about Vision and Design. The essays that make it up were written between 1900 and 1920, covering roughly the first half of Fry's critical career, and all of them have some bearing on the practice of art. There is plenty of theory in them and a great deal of argumentative, controversial writing, but the important thing for Fry was how sculpture and paintng looked. He writes fluently using abstract ideas or historical facts, but his starting point is always in the realm of appearances. The underlying assumption of many essays in this volume is that a work of art is primarily a configuration of lines, shapes, and colours and must be judged as such. The psychology of the artist fascinated him, as did the physiology of vision. Inevitably he was preoccupied with the problems of art-history, but art-history was most valuable in what it said about the work and achievement of his contemporaries. Foreign art forms interested him, too, but not in a random eclectic way. Fry was selective and he chose those exotic forms which seemed to him to have a bearing on the visual sensibility of the modern mind. "]

'Santayana and the Sense of Beauty' [Arnett, Willard E. Santayana and the Sense of Beauty. Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith. 1969.] "George Santayana died September 26, 1952. Perhaps more than any other first class mind in recent years, he was concerned throughout a long life with moral philosophy, with the values, traditional and contemporary, that have added most to the meaningfulness of man's life and history. Indeed, his entire philosophy, in the form of poetry, dialogues, essays, and a novel, was centered on the problems involved in working out a way of life based on reason and culminating in happiness and creativity. This philosophy includes values from science, art, religion, and political institutions in a synthesis that is remarkable, during an age of specialization, for its width of interest and sympathy . . . . "

'Sincerity & Authenticity' [Lionel Trilling]

'Symbolist Criticism of Painting. France, 1880-1895' [Martin, Elisabeth Puckett. The Symbolist Criticism of Painting. France, 1880-1895. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Bryn Mawr College. Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms, A Xerox Co. 1971.] "The art criticism of the past has recently come into its own as a field of historical interest; for us in the twentieth century it has the double attraction of being related both to the history of art and of ideas. Its development in France is particularly germane to the story of modern European art, and it has now been well covered for the eighteenth century, while the later controversies of Classicism and Romanticism, Realism and Naturalism, have been treated in some detail if not exhaustively. But due perhaps to its relative proximity to our own time, the critical reaction of the crucial decades toward the end of the century has only been briefly summarized in Venturi�s general History of Art Criticism. The outstanding individual authors have received so little attention that an examination of their ideas and contributions to the artistic environment of the time seems justified. The study centers on the immediate response to current esthetics as manifested in the journals. While first reactions have their evident short comings, these are surely offset by the documentary interest and the frequent liveliness of expression. The reviews of the Symbolist writers seem to be the clearest expression of that vanguard opinion which parallels the newest painting of the last twenty years of the century. Discussion has been limited to the domain of painting since the main stream of development was represented by that medium in the minds of contemporary reviewers as well as in retrospect. The critics habitually considered the two-dimensional arts first, pausing momentarily thereafter to lament the timid or static condition of sculpture and occasionally architecture. Although this situation was changing during the period under consideration as evidenced by the reviving interest in decorative arts, painting still remains the primary concern of the critic . . . . " [From the Preface]

'The Uncertainty of Analysis' [Reiss, Timothy J. The Uncertainty of Analysis. Problems in Truth, Meaning, and Culture. Ithica: Cornell Univ. Press. 1988.] "Written over a number of years, its chapters form part of a more complicated project whose purpose is to understand how forms of conceptualization and the sociocultural environments within which they function, to which they help give shape, and for whose practice they provide meaning have come into being and continue to exist . . . . "

'Ut Pictura Poesis' [Lee, Rensselaer W. Ut Pictura Poesis, The Humanistic Theory of Painting. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc. 1967.] "This essay attempts to define the humanistic theory of painting and record in broad terms its development from its beginning in the fifteenth century to the eighteenth when new forces in critical thought and in art began to cause its decline. Everywhere in the theory is the fundamental assumption--an assumption which is made no longer--that good painting, like good poetry, is the ideal imitation of human action. From this it follows that painters, like poets, must express general, not local, truth through subjects which education in the Biblical narratives and the Greco-Roman classics has made universally known and interesting; must deploy a rich variety of human emotion; and must aim not merely to please, but also to instruct mankind. This theory, like much of the art of the period, had its roots in antiquity . . . . " [From Preface to the 1967 Edition]

'Voices of Silence' [Malraux, Andr�. The Voices of Silence. Translated by Stuart Gilbert. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc. 1953.] " . . . . We interpret the past in the light of what we understand . . . . In 1910 it was assumed that the Winged Victory, when restored, would regain her ancient gold, her arms, her trumpet. Instead, she has regained her prow and, like a herald of the dawn, crowns the high stairway of the Louvre; it is not towards Alexandria that we have set her flight, but towards the Acropolis. Metamorphosis is not a matter of chance; it is a law governing the life [p. 68] of every work of art. We have learned that, if death cannot still the voice of genius, the reason is that genius triumphs over death not by reiterating its original language, but by constraining us to listen to a language constantly modified, sometimes forgotten--as it were an echo answering each passing century with its own voice--and what the masterpiece keeps up is not a monologue, however authoritative, but a dialogue indefeasible by Time . . . . The art which is taking over, sorting out and imposing its metamorphosis on this vast legacy of the past is by no means easy to define. It is our art of today . . . . " [pp. 68-70]

'Wise Choices, Apt Feelings' [Gibbard, Allan. Wise Choices, Apt Feelings. A Theory of Normative Judgment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press. 1990.] "An important part of reflective life is sorting out what really matters and why . . . . "



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