Byline: BRIAN SEWELL
THERE are times when I despair of art historians.
Their academic discipline was once founded on dates and documents, the painstaking dryness of this approach leading to factual reliability, excitement occasionally driven by eyes that saw connections improbable, probable and possible, and the consequent adventure in setting out to prove them.
When Communism in Russia and National Socialism in Germany became absolute regimes, this scrupulous study was for the first time subject to political distortions that were derided and deplored by my first post-war generation of students; they were, nevertheless, a warning demonstration of how easily the truth can be corrupted if the lie is told with the assumption of authority, and no matter whether that authority is political or academic. It is thus with some distress that I see the Courtauld Institute of Art, once the guardian of purest scholarship, in mounting an exhibition of the paintings of Gabriele M'nter, trumpet her as a woman who "played a vital role in the development of German Expressionism - in the forefront of a group of highly influential avant-garde artists - who redirected the course of German modernism and shaped Expressionist aesthetics -" That the subversive cant of old Communism has survived in art history as it is taught in the new ex-polytechnic universities should surprise none of us, but to find the new claptrap fascism of the feminist movement being preached at the Courtauld, once the haunt of the honest academic great, is utterly deplorable. It is now, even there it seems, politically incorrect to say anything of a woman painter that is not unalloyed praise, no matter what …