Theodore Reff

  • Cézanne on Solids and Spaces

    FEW GREAT ARTISTS’ THEORIES ARE more in need of explication than Cézanne’s. Like his paintings, they stand at a major historical intersection, and the heavy mental traffic flowing by, both backward into tradition and forward into modernism, seems increasingly to blur their contours and to dull their colors. To recapture their original meaning, we must try to distinguish the personal significance of the artist’s theories from their sources in older pedagogical treatises, on the one hand, and their influence on later esthetic programs, on the other. This is especially true of the most famous and

  • Love and Death in Picasso’s Early Work

    THE DISCUSSION OF PICASSO’S early work has thus far been dominated by attention to stylistic phenomena. The decade of intense activity from about 1900 to 1910 is generally divided into periods whose names alone—Toulouse-Lautrec, Blue, Rose, Negro, Early Cubist—are evidence of a preoccupation with stylistic issues. This is hardly surprising, given the remarkable variety of European and exotic, of older and contemporary styles that he assimilated in those years, the extraordinary pace of his own stylistic development from one period to the next, and above all the emergence of Cubism as a radically

  • Harlequins, Salimbanques, Clowns, and Fools

    AT THE BEGINNING OF the Fifth Duino Elegy, Rilke asks a question about Picasso’s Family of Saltimbanques that seems at first merely rhetorical, an effective way of introducing those reflections on the mystery of life with which the poem is concerned. “But tell me,” he asks, “who are they, these acrobats, even a little more fleeting than we ourselves . . . ?” Through endless repetition in the literature on both the painter and the poet, the question has now become famous, almost as famous as the picture itself, the largest and most familiar of any in the Rose Period and probably of any in Picasso’s

  • On “Manet’s Sources”

    Michael Fried’s essay on “Manet’s Sources” (Artforum, March, 1969) is by far the most ambitious attempt that has been made to grasp the significance of Manet’s complex relationship to older art during the first half of the 1860s. It is at once a detailed investigation of specific pictures and critical writings, many of which had been neglected by previous students, and an original, boldly speculative synthesis of these data to produce a coherent account. But the very boldness and unconventionality of its views, the very independence of its concepts from all those previously employed, together