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The Paint Thickens

IMAGINE THIS—SOMETHING WHICH would have been unlikely, if not unimaginable, five years ago: at the Metropolitan Museum, an ambitious, well-informed young New York painter is concentrating exclusively on the heavily laden surfaces of Velasquez or Goya or Delacroix or Courbet. Certainly these masters have not been accepted beforehand as mentors. For new painting they are being reseen in ways that reinvent the master as an ahistorical figure, an immediate presence, whose work is prized solely because it shows a minutely inflected, richly virtuosic control over oil paint. Evidence of this control is the focus of the contemporary painter’s attention to the exclusion of any interest in the earlier artist’s iconography, his treatment of pictorial “problems,” or his expressive qualities; his ideology, his cultural location, and his place in art history are matters of even less consequence.

The

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