Linda Nochlin


    As final preparations were underway for “Matisse and Picasso: A Gentle Rivalry,” which opens this month at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, art historian LINDA NOCHLIN met with the exhibition’s curator, YVE-ALAIN BOIS, and talked with him about his revisionist approach to the relationship between these two central modernist figures. By turns parodic, agonistic, even elegiac, the conversation Bois details unfolds as a series of nuanced moves and countermoves within the artworks themselves. Often seen as antipodal forces, the two artists emerge as necessary partners and foils, twin protagonists engaged in a mutually enabling dialogue that helped shape the narrative of modern painting.

    As the end of the twentieth century approaches, those grand old lions Picasso and Matisse, once seen as polar opposites within the narrative of modernist innovation, seem more and more like congenial creative companions. Perhaps it is today’s art-video, object, or installation oriented-that makes the two look sympathetically old-masterish, mythic remnants of a pre-abstract, painting-and-sculpture-centered tradition inherited from the nineteenth century. In short, Picasso and Matisse today seem more similar than either of them is to Robert Gober, or Janine Antoni, or Mona Hatoum, or for that

  • Linda Nochlin

    1 Ellsworth Kelly (Guggenheim Museum, New York): Without a doubt the season’s most exciting show—pleasurable, demanding, and full of surprises. Lots of gorgeous color, tantalizing shapes, delicacy and dazzle. Then the surprising elegance of the small-scale drawings, the wit of the altered postcards. And the upward-and-onward setting of the Guggenheim seemed just right for this ascent toward the absolute.

    2 Georges Seurat (National Gallery, London): A really interesting show, especially if you are involved in the late nineteenth century, interested in the representation of the bather, and an

  • “Objects of Desire: The Modern Still Life”

    Still life. The very term brings a furtive tear to the eye—a tear of nostalgia, perhaps, for all that has disappeared from contemporary art in the way of illusionism, pleasure, and painterly virtuosity. Or perhaps it is the melancholy evoked by the words themselves, for “still life” suggests death or death-in-life, even more literally in the French version of the term, “nature morte” or dead nature.

    In traditional still life, the popular motif of the skull introduces the memento mori into the very fabric of the earthly delights on display. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century specialists in the

  • Linda Nochlin


    L’INFORME: MODE D’EMPLOI” (The formless: a user’s manual), curated by Rosalind Krauss and Yve-Alain Bois at the Centre Georges Pompidou this past summer, was everything a show should be—intelligently organized, beautiful to look at, and original in conception. Challenging the conventional Modernist reading of twentieth-century art, “L’Informe,” and the set of anticategorical “operations” it established—horizontality, pulse, base materialism, and entropy—also inspired me to look at nineteenth-century vanguard art differently. For instance, seeing Piero Manzoni’s Achrome of 1962,

  • Francis Bacon

    On entering this major Francis Bacon retrospective, curated by David Sylvester one was immediately confronted by the memorably horrific Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, 1944. These weird sisters, phallic in inspiration, ambiguously maleficent in pose and identity, seem to have been inspired by the vengeful Eumenides who, in Aeschylus’ drama, pursued Orestes after Athens lost the Peloponnesian war. Writhing before a stark orange background, mouths either hardly visible or wide open in a vagina dentata–esque howl, these creatures are nevertheless oddly domesticated, more

  • Simon Schama’s Landscape and Memory

    Landscape and Memory, by Simon Schama. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. 652 pages, 250 black and white and 45 color illustrations.

    ONCE, YEARS AGO, I got lost in the woods of New Milford, Connecticut. I had drifted away from a backyard party in search of Indian pipe flowers for my little daughter and lost the trail. It got darker and darker, and the more I tried to find my way out, the more I seemed to hem myself in: there were no guideposts, no markers, no signs of civilization anywhere. The land grew marshy; I had horrid visions of quicksand. Twisted trees and prickly bushes blocked my path



    Make It New

    Bruce Nauman retrospective, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles: Bad news from the studio, but real news nevertheless. Twenty-five years of pieces, each of which seems to have arisen out of a condition of sudden panic—out of the terror of not knowing, of having forgotten, willfully, day after day, what art is and what an artist might do—of having forgotten, even, what an artist is. A fountain? A source of mystic truths? A cruel instructor? A tortured clown? We get one brutal, last-ditch guess after another, and the whole practice of “artmaking” is reinvented, again

  • Frayed Fraud

    MY INITIAL REACTION TO the exhibition “Lucian Freud: Recent Work,” at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art this winter, was an almost visceral repugnance. It was a malaise brought on by a combination of undistinguished painting and bad faith, tricked out with surely the most ostentatious hype ever lavished on a living artist: a veritable “blizzard of blague,” to borrow the words of Hilton Kramer, a critic whose words I do not borrow often. As I revisited the show, it became clear that Freud’s achievement rests on a traditional and complacent belle peinture—not even so beautiful at that, but

  • Philip Pearlstein’s Portrait of Linda Nochlin and Richard Pommer

    PHILIP PEARLSTEIN’S Portrait of Linda Nochlin and Richard Pommer ties together the personal and the intellectual strands of my life like no other work of art. It was commissioned in 1968, as a wedding portrait, and we are both wearing more or less the clothes we were married in: Dick, white linen trousers and a blue shirt; I, a white dress with a bold blue geometric pattern. We are represented sitting in Philip’s studio in Skowhegan, illuminated by the cold light of dentists’ lamps, sweating in the heat of a Maine summer, though this latter condition is not recorded.

    The painting engages a long

  • Edvard Munch

    RARELY HAS THE QUESTION of content in the art of the past hundred years been more vividly raised than at the retrospective exhibition of the works of Edvard Munch (1863–1944) at the Guggenheim Museum in New York from October 1965 to January 1966. From the earliest painting in the show—the somberly naturalistic portrait of his sister Inger of 1884—to the latest—Between Clock and Bed: Self-Portrait of 1940–42, with the old man himself pinioned into place between time and death—Munch’s long and extremely uneven career is marked by an unending attempt to work out suitable pictorial equivalents for