COLUMNS

  • Books

    Discovering the Present: Three Decades in Art, Culture, and Politics

    Discovering the Present: Three Decades in Art, Culture, And Politics, Harold Rosenberg, edited by Michael Denneny. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1974, 335 pages.

    Rosenberg’s book consists of 35 articles which originally appeared elsewhere: in Art News, Art News Annual, Commentary, Dissent, Esquire, Jewish Frontier, Midstream, Nation, New Yorker, Partisan Review, Twentieth Century, View, Vogue, as well as in other collections, and, in one instance, an exhibition catalogue. The earliest appeared in 1943, the latest in 1972, with the majority published in the 1960s. The one previously

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  • Books

    The Roots of Man

    Alexander Marshak, The Roots of Man (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972).

    FROM A STRICTLY CHRISTIAN point of view the meaning of history is prefigured by the antediluvian era. Noah’s ark symbolizes the Church that, at the end of temporal time, will save the faithful from the flood of infidelity. With unrivaled grandeur, Michelangelo illustrates this theme in terms of a tradition that permits him to blend Biblical history with Vergilian Sibyllae who prophesized the coming of Christ. Michelangelo’s Christ descending from the heavens in his second coming is a God of Apollonian beauty and wisdom.

    It was only

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  • Books

    13 Paintings, 13 Books

    John Gage, Turner: Rain, Steam and Speed, Art in Context Series, ed. John Fleming and Hugh Honour (New York, The Viking Press, 1972), 99 pages, 51 black-and-white illustrations.

    Joel Isaacson, Monet: Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe (1972), 124 pages, 45 illustrations.

    Marilyn Aron-berg Lavin, Piero della Francesca: The Flagellation (1972), 109 pages, 57 illustrations.

    Roy Strong, Van Dyck: Charles I on Horseback (1972), 112 pages, 49 illustrations.

    Elisabeth Dhanens, Van Eyck: The Ghent Altarpiece (1973), 154 pages, 77 illustrations.

    John Golding, Marcel Duchamp: The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors,

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  • Books

    L’Année 1913 and Modern Art Exhibitions 1900–1916

    L’Année 1913: les formes esthétiques de l’oeuvre d’art à la veille de la première guerre mondiale, L. Brion-Guerry, editor. Paris, Editions Klincksieck, 1971, 1973, vols. I and II: studies and chronologies, vol. Ill: manifestoes and documents, 1903 pages, 121 illustrations, indices and chronological tables.

    Modern Art Exhibitions 1900–1916; Selected Catalogue Documentation, Donald E. Gordon. Munich, Prestel-Verlag, 1974, 2 vols., 1268 pages, 1905 illustrations.

    These two monumental works are the most important publications yet to appear in early twentieth-century art history; they are surely

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  • Books

    Contemporary Art and the Plight of the Public: a View from the New York Hilton

    Hilton Kramer, The Age of the Avant-Garde, An Art Chronicle of 1956–1972 (New York: Farrar, Straus And Giroux, 1973), 565 Pages.

    A DECADE AND A LITTLE more have passed since Leo Steinberg composed, for an audience at The Museum of Modern Art, the popular lecture which characterized the situation of the public for contemporary art as a “plight.”1 Postulating an immediately functional idea of a public as grounded in the most generally shared experience of attentive beholders, Steinberg restored the artist and the critic to their places within that very large community. Their “plight” he then

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  • Books

    Dark Glasses and Bifocals

    Stanley Cavell, The World Viewed, Reflections on the Ontology of Film (New York: The Viking Press, 1971), 174 pages, softbound.

    Stephen Koch, Star-Gazer, Andy Warhol’s World and His Films (New York: Praeger Publishers, Inc.), 155 pages, 51 black-and-white illustrations, hardbound.

    HOLDING IN CHECK THE ADAGE about books and their covers, I find myself fascinated by the very look of the two works lying before me. The cover of the one called The World Viewed is white with very thin, very decorous lettering. A handdrawn eye, with half its pupil black-and-white and the other half prismatically colored,

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  • Books

    Erotic Art of the West

    Robert Melville, Erotic Art of the West (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1973), 318 pages, 30 colorplates, over 200 black-and-white illustrations.

    ROBERT MELVILLE HAS BEEN WORKING on this study intermittently for many years. The guiding motto of his text is provided by certain lines from Baudelaire’s Salons in which the poet adumbrates an imaginary Museum of Love. Here

    there would be a place for everything, from S. Theresa’s undirected affections down to the serious debaucheries of the ages of ennui. No doubt an immense distance separates Le Depart pour l’île de Cythère from the miserable daubs

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  • Books

    Documentary Expression and Thirties America

    William Stott, Documentary Expression and Thirties America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 361 pages, 64 black-and-white illustrations.

    William Stott’s new study is a strong and welcome antidote to the partial oblivion that still besets our consciousness of the thirties. Although not primarily concerned with the visual arts as such, the author’s analysis of the documentary mentality that affected a host of activities during the period—sociological studies of class and caste, radio news, “on the road”-style fiction or autobiography—will provide art historians with a “feel” of the times

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  • Books

    Paul Jenkins

    Albert Elsen, Paul Jenkins (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1973), 284 pages, 56 colorplates, 115 black-and-white illustrations.

    This monograph opens, after a few grainy Avalanche-type photographs of the artist at work, with a sententious note by the author, Albert Elsen. “In writing about a living artist, the historian must remind himself that he should ask questions such as those we would like to have had answered by artists of the past, before the recording of art history.” This laudable intention of satisfying the curiosity of future generations is taken by Elsen as art occasion for boldly

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  • Books

    The New York School: A Cultural Reckoning

    Dore Ashton, The New York School: A Cultural Reckoning (New York: The Viking Press, 1972).

    DORE ASHTON HAS WRITTEN a book about the collective life and concerns of the Abstract Expressionist painters in New York. The New York School: a Cultural Reckoning gets off to a discouraging start, but picks up gradually, involving us more and more in some of the main preoccupations of the New York art world from the Depression to the 1950s.

    What we get is straight reportage, which benefits from intramural knowledge, but we sometimes wish Ashton had used her control of inside dope to speculate on implications.

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  • Books

    Wittgenstein’s Vienna

    Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin, Wittgenstein’s Vienna (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973), 314 pages, 17 black-and-white illustrations.

    “Mahler’s Vienna” would be a quite thinkable title for a book. “Freud’s Vienna” makes an even more plausible one. Both would deal with famous, heroic, struggling innovators, effecting culture through the gradual conversion of their professions and audiences. And in the controversies they generated, what worshipful opportunities there are for piquant biographical, social, and intellectual reportage. But how is one to greet Wittgenstein’s Vienna, published earlier

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  • Books

    Image of the People: Gustav Courbet and the Second French Republic, 1848-1851

    Image of the People: Gustav Courbet and the Second French Republic, 1848-1851, T. J. Clark. Greenwich, Connecticut: New York Graphic Society Ltd., 1973, 208 pages, seven colorplates, 43 black-and-white illustrations, bibliography, hardbound.

    It is T. J. Clark’s intention, in Image of the People, to write a genuine social history of art. He rejects a prevailing tendency of art-historical monographs, in which, typically, an introductory chapter lays in the historical background with a broad brush, against which the author proceeds to delineate particular works as demonstrations of an artist’s

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