Men of Art


My subject is as old as the human race. Since the dawn of time, men have carved and painted--have moulded material substances into living forms which we call art. And art, being immemorial, is rich beyond measure, so rich indeed that the sum of its achievements is no longer within the grasp of any one mind. My aim then has been to organize and simplify, to reduce speculative and technical problems to the narrowest dimensions, to concentrate on significant movements and outstanding individuals. I have limited myself to painting in the Western World, beginning with Giotto and the occidental tradition, and driving a straight course through successive developments down to and including the latest French Modernism and the new mural art of North America.

Why some men should draw and paint, while others prefer to buy and sell, I do not know. I have accepted the fact that they do, and have tried to make the most of it. To account for the art impulse and to explain its origins would be to explain life itself -and that enigma I leave to the astrophysicists. But this does not mean that I have conceived of art as having no purpose in the world. On the contrary, my whole book is a tribute to the power and the glory of artists whose work is impregnated with human meanings and interwoven with the fabric of the social structure, as opposed to the futile practitioners of art for art's sake. Accordingly, I have been at pains to reconstruct backgrounds, to present the artist in relation to contemporary events, and events in relation to the special civilizations producing them. It has been a pleasant task to emphasize once more the humanity of the artist; to show that in the character and quality of his experiences, in his strength and his weakness, he is not a curious solitary with a unique emotional apparatus, but a sane, healthy, and industrious workman, differing from his fellows only in the intensity of his endowments. An exceptional relish for life involves him in wider experiences; having sharper susceptibilities, he is more . . .

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1931


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