Art History: An Anthology of Modern Criticism

Art History: An Anthology of Modern Criticism

Art History: An Anthology of Modern Criticism

Art History: An Anthology of Modern Criticism

Excerpt

Ours has been called an age of criticism, and there are at least two apparent reasons for the extraordinary vitality shown by modern critics of the arts. One is that the arts themselves have been going through a period of feverish change and activity. When we review what has happened since Cézanne, Rodin, and Sullivan, we must be convinced that there have been few eras more revolutionary in painting, sculpture, and architecture. One of the most invigorating movements in Western art was Cubism. Developing as it did from Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, Cubism spread dynamically into every medium because it expressed certain fundamental revisions in our living and thinking. We need not give credit to the Cubists alone for this thoroughgoing revolution; they simply moved with the times, with the tide that brought new forms of music, poetry, science, philosophy, and politics. Cubism was symptomatic.

In one of his rather misunderstood phrases, Matthew Arnold said that the critical activity is lower than the creative, and the belief still lingers that an age of criticism is sterile, the assumption being that we turn to criticism only when the creative impulse has played itself out. We have been told wrongly again and again that the early eighteenth century was such an age. We have often believed it of our own age. But have not some of the most creative eras in the arts also been ages of intense critical activity?

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