Philip Leider

  • Francis Bacon, The Golden Age of Spanish Sculpture, 100 European Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Soutine

    John Rothenstein and Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon (New York: Viking), 1964.

    IT HAS OFTEN been noted that writers never seem to live up to their pre-Nobel Prize performances, and that the Academy Award is usually the kiss of death to an actor’s career. One can only hope that Francis Bacon can survive this strange tribute of a catalogue raisonné of what one hopes will only be a frac­tion of his output. The book surveys and documents Bacon’s entire career, from his early abstract works (we have come to that) to the summer of 1963. An excellent selection of color plates is backed up by over 250 black

  • James T. Soby’s, James Elliott’s, and Monroe Wheeler’s Bonnard and His Environment

    James T. Soby, James Elliott, Monroe Wheeler, Bonnard and His Environment (New York: Museum of Modern Art, Doubleday & Co), 1964, 116 pages, illustrated.

    THIS BOOK IS OFFERED as a “supplement” to the awesomely competent monograph published by the same institution 13 years ago by John Reward, and still in print. Except for the 41 color plates (in almost every case one wishes color plates had been made for the paintings in the Rewald show instead) and the additional bibliography (which refers the reader to the Rewald book for the first 200 citations) it is difficult to see what supplemental services

  • Peter Selz’s Max Beckmann

    Peter Selz, Max Beckmann (New York: Museum of Modern Art), 1964. 160 pages, illustrated.

    No painter, it seems, has dated as quickly as has Max Beckmann. The bluntness of his execution, the unabashed literary quality of his art, the profuse and enigmatic symbolism were the very qualities which younger generations of artists were finding least congenial. Dr. Peter Selz could not care less about who contemporary fashion does or does not cotton to, and has prepared his volume with the massive thoroughness we have come to expect of him, although often enough even he must retreat from one of Beckmann’s

  • The Diaries of Paul Klee (1898–1918)

    The Diaries of Paul Klee (1898–1918) (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press), 1964. 424 pages, illustrated.

    Almost all the great artists wrote well, but few indeed wrote as well as Paul Klee. It is a joy to have these diaries available. The deepening crisis in the arts in the most recent decades has forced almost all artists into an anti-intellectual position. The cultivated image of the artist that emerges from these pages is one that our times will probably not see again.

    Philip Leider

  • Gordon Onslow-Ford’s Painting in the Instant

    Gordon Onslow-Ford, Painting in the Instant (New York: Abrams), 1964.

    RESIDENTS OF NORTHERN CALIFORNIA have for years been afflicted by the ubiquitous, insidious drivel of California Zen. The otherwise almost faultless programming of listener-subscription station KPFA looses, with maddening frequency, the unctuous voice of Alan Watts to drench the entire Bay Area in tides of Zen molasses; saintly exponents are forever practicing their all-tolerant smiles in the local bars, and the newspapers cannot spare a week without an interview with some local poet just returned from his year’s stint with

  • Aesop, Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables

    Aesop, Five Centuries of Illustrated Fables (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Distributed by New York Graph­ic Society, Greenwich, Conn). 96 pages, illustrated.

    Parents who find themselves stupefied by the vapid quality of present-day children’s books will find this selection a joy. Illustrations for each of the fables selected range from 15th-cen­tury Italian woodcuts to drawings by Alexander Calder, and the fables themselves are presented handsomely print­ed in translations also ranging from Caxton to Marianne Moore. J. J. Grand­ville’s 19th-century wood engravings, which have been charming

  • Three San Francisco Sculptors

    THE MOOD OF HIGH MORAL ELEVATION, dedicated austerity and mysterious power which has dominated San Francisco painting for the past decade has resulted, perhaps, in a even stiffer resistance among the artists and in the academies to the changes which have taken place on the American art scene since the advent of Rauschenberg, Johns, the Pop Artists and the increasing prominence of the Hard Edge and “field” painters. It has been difficult for Bay Area painters to grasp the new mood, not only because of the deep-rootedness of the attitudes instilled by the Abstract Expressionist generation, but

  • The Cool School

    THE AVANT-GARDE TODAY is that part of the creative world which perceives most clearly the extent to which all the forms and conventions of art (all the arts) have been exhausted. Avant-garde artists today are characterized not so much by what they produce as New (that would be a Renaissance) but by that quick intelligence which perceives, in despair and in disgust, what is already “weary, stale, flat and unprofitable” in the artistic means still current. The word “crisis,” used so commonly in all the arts today, has its deepest reference to the condition which arises when the most advanced

  • Richard Diebenkorn Drawings at Stanford

    ALMOST BY FORCE OF HABIT, it had become common to understand that when Richard Diebenkorn offered us, on a small canvas, a pair of scissors and a lemon, we were really getting an essay in abstract principles, an investigation into the many possibilities these two simple shapes could offer. The idea that the artist, in this simple painting, was imparting to us a part of his world-view, an aspect of his personality, a statement, an attitude, seemed simply irrelevant. Something like an “ex-convict” on a new job, Diebenkorn’s audience insisted on seeing all of his performances in the light of the

  • Kishi

    Like the War Department, the art world has its hawks and its doves. The doves like to talk about “lots of room for lots of styles and approaches,” while the hawks like to talk about “mainstream art.” The dove’s worst enemy is Walter Keane, while the hawk’s worst enemy is the dove. Kishi is the kind of artist that throws both camps into utter confusion. The doves like him for all the wrong reasons, while the hawks mistrust him because the doves like him so. The doves are astonished at the manner in which his paintings bring a joyous, zestful life into their living rooms; the hawks, while admiring

  • John Rewald’s Pissarro

    John Reward, Pissarro (New York: Abrams), 1963. 160 Pages, illustrated.

    WITHOUT CAMILLE PISSARRO the history of Impressionism might very well have run a quite different course, yet it is remarkable in how much of the literature of Impressionism his role is slighted. This is perhaps because it is difficult—even Rewald sometimes has trouble—to strike a balance in evaluating his contribution as an artist and his contribution as a man. As an artist he is consistently overshadowed by his comrades, but it is he to whom they refer as their teacher, and when Cézanne, in 1906, now an idol of another

  • Gerd Stern

    There has not been such a chattering of motors, clanking of gears, winking of lights, and buzzing of cir­cuits at the San Francisco Museum since Charles Mattox’s constructions were all but demolished by gleeful children. But the resemblance ends with the noise. Mattox’s work remained well within a tradition of constructivist art, distilling a positive, cheerful es­thetic from a technology that no one really feels very positive about. Stern has his roots in Dada: the senselessly blinking light is a manifestation of the Absurd. Mattox derives his elegance and his assurance from an abstracted idea