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PRINT April 1982

PRESENTING THE UNPRESENTABLE: THE SUBLIME

IT IS NOT JUST PHOTOGRAPHY that has rendered the profession of painting “impossible”; to claim that it was would be like saying that Stéphane Mallarmé’s work,or James Joyce’s, were simply responses to the development of journalism. Painting’s impossibility arises from the industrial and postindustrial—technoscientific—world’s greater need for photography than for painting, just as that world needs journalism more than it does literature. The momentum of this world brought with it the decline of the so-called “noble” professions which had belonged to the previous world, as well as the contraction of that earlier world.

Painting won its noble imprimatur, was ranked as a Fine Art, and was awarded almost princely privileges during the Quattrocento. In the centuries that followed it contributed its share toward realizing the metaphysical and political program of visual and social order. Optical

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