new-york

“The Amasis Painter and His World”

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This is a case in which the critic must talk more about the historic significance of the exhibition than about the work exhibited.

In ancient and primitive cultures artists did not sign their works, and the profession of painter or sculptor or whatever was usually an inherited one and socially indistinguishable from crafts like harness-making or blacksmithing. An artist was taught the canon of his tradition, and the idea of personal innovation was antithetical. In other words, art did not involve the element of self-expression that for us has been its sine qua non.

In Greece in the 6th century BC the prototype of the attitude that we have known as Modernism arose—the prototype whose influence on European thinkers in the 18th century formed our Modernism. The essence of it was the emphasis on personal sensibility as a value in itself. In literature it resulted in the subjective lyric poems

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