New York

Frank Stella

Jacobson Howard

For some time now Frank Stella has been on a quasi-expressionist kick. His series “The Marquise of O,” 1998–2000—marvelous formally if not necessarily in terms of its response to Heinrich von Kleist’s novella—carries it to new heights. In the press release, Kleist is described as an “isolated genius,” but he wasn’t exactly isolated so much as mentally disturbed. An army officer for seven “lost” years, as he called them, and disillusioned with reason after reading Kant, he put his faith in emotion. Sadly, it was misplaced: After a miserable life, he committed suicide in 1811 at the age of 34.

One of the first Romantic poets and playwrights, Kleist has come to be regarded as the prototypical expressionist and existentialist, not to say mad modern genius, that is, an artist whose works resonate with unresolved conflicts—especially between restrained reason and unrepressed emotion. What makes

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