PRINT Summer 1987


IN THE FALL OF 1939, a 30-year-old appraiser for the U.S. Customs Service spent his slack office hours writing an article on Bertolt Brecht for Partisan Review, followed shortly by another, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch.” By the next year Clement Greenberg was an editor of Partisan Review and well on his way to becoming a major force in American intellectual life and criticism.

In the half century since then the curve of his influence has passed through some remarkable coordinates. During the ’40s and ’50s the line touches each of these points on the graph: the arrival and apotheosis of Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, David Smith, and most of the ’50s avant-garde; the victory of Abstract Expressionism and formalism over humanism and social realism; the establishment of a critical groundwork by which the “triumph” of American art could be quantified and enshrined. Yet Greenberg

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