Old School Master

HERE ARE HIS OWN FAMOUS WORDS, but he didn’t know they stated a problem, he couldn’t see the problem even when it stared him in the face: “Flesh was the reason oil painting was invented.”1 He didn’t know that this idea kept him from Modern greatness, or rather that it made him a great old master, for it’s an old master idea of painting, not a Modern one. As idée fixe, flesh implies a traditionalist’s reliance, indeed dependence, on the model (however abstracted or disguised)—an inability to break away from the objective referent. Thus it implies a misunderstanding of the whole direction in which Modern painting was moving in de Kooning’s era: the liberation from any model (external or internal), any descriptive mimetic purpose—any association beyond what is immanent in paint itself, in its fluidity and lability. This line of Modernist art fosters a sense of spontaneity. Painting becomes

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