PRINT October 1995

Social Silence

WHAT WAS ALMOST AN article of faith in social art history only a few years ago seems far less compelling today: that the reconstruction of responses of early readers (viewers) at the time of a work’s production could not only significantly clarify the esthetic impact and the ramifications of its sociopolitical or ideological functions within that particular historical moment, but it could also facilitate its comprehension in the present. Given this conviction, it should come as no surprise to those who have examined the early Mondrian literature that, when it comes to his achievement, social art history has been silent.

Here is our first example of the problematics of a reader’s response to Mondrian. In an early instance of the postwar European reception of Mondrian’s work, we hear a relatively isolated French voice (France was after all the country of the least and the last affection for

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