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Margaret Moore Booker

(b Butrimonys, Alytus County, Lithuania, June 26, 1865; d Settignano, Italy, Oct 6, 1959).

American art historian, critic, and connoisseur. Berenson was perhaps the single most influential art historian in the USA for much of the 20th century. As the leading scholar and authority on Italian Renaissance art, his opinion greatly influenced American art museums and collectors, whom he guided in the purchase of many important works of art. His pupils and disciples became the curators of many of the world’s great museums. His dealings with art galleries also made him a highly controversial figure.

Born to Albert and Julia Valvrojenski in Lithuania, Berenson immigrated to Boston, MA, with his family in 1875, at which time his surname was changed to Berenson. Later called ‘BB’ by friends and family, he dropped the ‘h’ from his first name around 1915. Jewish by birth, he converted to Christianity and was baptized in 1885. He attended Boston Latin School, Boston University, and finally Harvard University, where he studied under Charles Eliot Norton and received a BA in ...

Article

James Smalls

The Black Arts Movement spans the period from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Inherently and overtly political in content, it was an artistic, cultural and literary movement in America promoted to advance African American “social engagement.” In a 1968 essay titled “The Black Arts Movement,” African American scholar Larry Neal (1937–81) proclaimed it as the “artistic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept.” The use of the term “Black Power” originated in 1966 with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) civil rights workers Stokely Carmichael and Willie Ricks. Quickly adopted in the North, Black Power was associated with a militant advocacy of armed self-defense, separation from “racist American domination” and pride in and assertion of the goodness and beauty of “Blackness.”

In addition to “Black Power,” the slogan “Black is Beautiful” also became part of the Black Arts Movement and the Black Cultural Movement (also known as Black Aesthetics). The aim of these maxims was to counter and dispel the widespread notion throughout Western cultures that black people’s natural features, such as skin color, facial characteristics and hair, were inherently ugly. The central purpose was to subvert decades of anti-black rhetoric and “to make African Americans totally and irreversibly proud of their racial and cultural heritage.” Black Arts Movement cultural theorists and artists reasoned that promotion of a black aesthetic was mandatory to help the African American community perceive itself as not only beautiful, but also as proud of the legacy of African American achievement, self-determinacy and self-identification with all black peoples throughout the African diaspora. The tone was militant and separatist, not conciliatory and assimilationist, and resulted in a call for a revolutionary art that spoke to a definable black aesthetic. In ...

Article

Tapati Guha-Thakurta

(b Colombo, Aug 22, 1877; d Needham, MA, Sept 9, 1947).

Anglo-Sinhalese writer and curator, active also in India and the USA. More than those of any other scholar of Indian art, culture and aesthetics, Coomaraswamy’s vision and views have dominated and moulded the current understanding of Indian art. He began his career at the start of the 20th century as a champion of an aesthetic revaluation of Indian art. His powerful defence of Indian art and Eastern aesthetics was motivated, on the one hand, by a cultural nationalism that resented the intrusion of British colonial rule in India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and, on the other hand, by a utopian ideal of a medieval village civilization that rejected the materialism of the modern, industrial West. This ideal of an alternative socio-cultural order, discovered in traditional Sri Lanka and India, generated in time a more specific quest for an alternative aesthetic of Indian art. From the active mission of the cultural regeneration of Asia, Coomaraswamy retreated, with age, into the more aloof world of iconography, Eastern religions and metaphysics....

Article

Casey Haskins

(b Burlington, VT, Oct 20, 1859; d New York, June 1, 1952).

American philosopher, educator, and author. Dewey taught at the University of Michigan (1884–94), Ann Arbor, the University of Chicago (1894–1904), and Columbia University (1904–30), New York. A major presence in American intellectual life during much of the 20th century, aside from his role in developing a philosophical view known as American Pragmatism, Dewey is best known for his advocacy of progressive education. He founded the Chicago Laboratory School with Jane Addams, was a founder of the New School for Social Research, and was an advisory council member for Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Dewey was a prolific author of popular articles and scholarly books, including Democracy and Education (1916), Human Nature and Conduct (1922), The Quest for Certainty (1929), Experience and Nature (1925), and Art as Experience (1934), widely considered the most influential work in 20th-century philosophical aesthetics by an American author....

Article

Ken Carpenter

(b Bronx, NY, Jan 16, 1909; d New York, NY, May 7, 1994).

American critic. He studied at the Art Students League in New York (1924–5) and obtained his BA from Syracuse University (1930). He began his writing career while working as a clerk for US Customs, with frequent contributions to Partisan Review on politics, literature, and art. From 1940 to 1943 he was an editor of that journal and from 1942 to 1949 was a regular art critic for Nation. Greenberg came to prominence as the most articulate early proponent of such Abstract Expressionist painters as Jackson Pollock, Adolph Gottlieb, and Hans Hofmann, and of the sculptor David Smith. Greenberg’s exhibition, Post Painterly Abstraction (1964), championed a second generation of American and Canadian abstract painters such as Jack Bush, Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Jules Olitski. He defined their work in Heinrich Wölfflin’s stylistic terms of ‘openness’ and linear clarity, arguing it was ‘fresh’ as the equally linear-style Pop art was not. In one of his last important articles, ‘Counter-avant-garde’ (...

Article

(b New York, Dec 20, 1895; d Old Lyme, CT, July 17, 1985).

American philosopher. After obtaining her first degree at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA, from 1927 to 1942 she was a tutor in philosophy there. Subsequently, she was lecturer in philosophy at Columbia University, NY (1945–50), and then Professor of Philosophy (1954–61) and Professor Emerita of Philosophy (1961–85) at Connecticut College, New London. Rather than merely appending art to a system that takes science and mathematics as the models of human achievement, Langer’s work places unusual and rewarding emphasis on its philosophical importance as a source of knowledge. Influenced by the philosophy of Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945), she saw symbolism as the crucial concept in philosophy. Her first significant book was Philosophy in a New Key (1942), in which she set out a general theory of symbolism that incorporates language and, among other fields, art. Distinguishing between what she called discursive and presentational forms of symbolism, she compared art with language. Language, the paradigm of a discursive symbolism, has syntax, vocabulary, and grammar and is comprehended primarily by the intellect. A presentational symbolism, as is found in art, forms a unified whole that cannot be broken up into distinct elements and that is comprehended directly by the senses. Lacking the determinate structure that is found in a discursive symbolism, presentational symbolism is both more complex and fluid, and Langer therefore preferred to speak of the import of works of art, rather than of their meaning. Aware of the difficulties of defining art on the basis of its content and prompted by Clive Bell’s statement that ‘significant form’ is the only feature common to art, Langer stated that the defining quality of art lay in its formal structure. Of all the arts, she therefore concentrated on music, which, having no literal meaning or representational aspect, facilitated a study of form alone....

Article

Benjamin Flowers

Term for the diverse body of social theory based on the work of the German socialist and political economist Karl Marx (1818–83) and his collaborator Friedrich Engels (1820–95). Although commonly associated with political movements, Marxism also had an important impact on cultural production. Marxism continues to influence both the creation of art and architecture in the USA, and perhaps more importantly in this geographic and social context, its reception.

Marx, a voluminous thinker and writer, did not leave behind a major body of work addressing art. It was the project of many of those who came after Marx to articulate how Marxism, as a mode of social analysis, could shed light on the processes of artistic production and the interpretation of its significance. While Marx was confident that art was one of the ‘ideological forms’ through which class conflict took place, he also recognized that artistic development in societies did not depend exclusively on the form of social organization. The task for the heirs of the Marxist tradition was to determine how his insights into the ways capitalism revolutionized social relations, economic conditions, and political reality offered new approaches to understanding the labours of art and architecture....

Article

Michael Podro and Margaret Barlow

(b Hannover, March 30, 1892; d Princeton, NJ, March 14, 1968).

German art historian, active in the USA. He wrote primarily on late medieval and Renaissance art in northern Europe and Italy, mostly, but by no means exclusively, on painting.

Panofsky’s doctoral dissertation (1915) was on the relation of Dürer’s theory of art to that in Renaissance Italy; in 1923 he and Fritz Saxl published a study of Dürer’s engraving Melencolia I. In 1926 he became the first professor of art history at the new university of Hamburg, where he was closely involved with Ernst Cassirer (1874–1945), the professor of philosophy, and with Saxl and Aby Warburg at the Bibliothek Warburg. Panofsky’s name is often narrowly associated with the search for the subject-matter of paintings through reference to traditional imagery and literature. However, his writing always involved a much more ambitious and coherent mode of critical interpretation: he sought consistently to place individual works of art in relation to what he took to be an underlying aspect of the human situation, the reciprocity between ‘objectivity’—our receptive relation to the external world—and ‘subjectivity’—the constructive activity of our thought....

Article

(b Buffalo, NY, Dec 24, 1913; d New York, Aug 30, 1967).

American painter and writer. He was renowned for his work as an abstract painter and for his influence on Minimalism; he also wrote and lectured throughout his life, using these forms to deal with matters he felt were best left out of painting. He set his date of birth in the context of a personal, cultural, and political chronology, describing it as having taken place nine months after the Armory Show had ended, on the eve of Europe’s entry into World War I and during the year in which Kazimir Malevich painted the first geometric abstract painting. Extensive travel throughout the world fed his encyclopedic interests.

Reinhardt studied (1931–5) literature and then art history under Meyer Schapiro at Columbia University, New York, where he gained a broad-based arts education; also under Schapiro’s influence he became involved in what were then considered radical campus politics. Reinhardt was editor of the humorous campus publication ...

Article

Nadja Rottner

French critic and philosopher Nicolas Bourriaud adopted the term ‘relational aesthetics’ in the mid-1990s to refer to the work of a selected group of artists, and what he considers their novel approach to a socially conscious art of participation: an art that takes as its content the human relations elicited by the artwork. Its key practitioners, most of them emerging in the 1990s, include Rirkrit Tiravanija , Philippe Parreno (b 1964), Liam Gillick, Pierre Huyghe, Maurizio Cattelan, Carsten Höller , and Vanessa Beecroft . For example, Carsten Höller installed Test Site (2006) at the Tate Modern in London so that visitors could enjoy the amusement park thrill of large playground slides in the museum’s Turbine Hall, and bond with fellow viewers over their experience. Bourriaud’s collected writings in Relational Aesthetics (1998, Eng. edn 2002) helped to spark a new wave of interest in participatory art.

While Bourriaud omits acknowledging the historical roots of relational art, Marxist-influenced critiques of the changing conditions of modern life, and arguments for art’s ability to improve man’s relationship with reality have a long history in 20th-century art. Critics Walter Benjamin and Siegfried Kracauer were among the first to developed new models for an art of politicized participation in the 1920s. The relational art of the 1990s and early 2000s is a continuation and an extension of traditions of participatory art throughout the 20th century (such as ...

Article

Jenefer Robinson

[Jorge (Augustín Nicolás Ruiz de)]

(b Madrid, Dec 16, 1863; d Rome, Sept 26, 1952).

Spanish philosopher and writer, active in the USA. He grew up in Boston, MA, attended Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, as an undergraduate and taught there from 1889 to 1912. He then retired to Europe, living in England, Paris, and finally Rome. His most famous work in aesthetics is an early book, The Sense of Beauty (1896), in which he repudiates the Hegelian idealism then current in England and America and gives a psychological analysis of the beautiful, based on ‘scientific’ neo-empiricist principles. Beauty is defined as ‘pleasure objectified’ (p. 33). We call objects beautiful when we take pleasure in the experience of them, and this pleasure appears to us to be a quality of the objects themselves. Three sources of beauty are distinguished: beauty of materials (sensuous elements such as colours or sounds), beauty of form (combinations of sensuous elements as in symmetry), and beauty of expression (our associations with an object). Expression occurs when the experienced object suggests to our imagination some other object or event: these two terms ‘lie together in the mind, and their union constitutes expression’ (p. 121). For expression to be an element of beauty, the association must give pleasure experienced as a quality of the object. Santayana argued that even when what is suggested has negative value, as in tragedy, it is transformed into positive value when united in expression with a beautiful object....

Article

[Meir]

(b Siauliai, Lithuania, Sept 23, 1904; d New York, March 3, 1996).

American art historian, critic, and teacher of Lithuanian birth. An archetypal Jewish émigré, he arrived in the USA at the age of three. In 1920 he entered Columbia College, New York, where, having concluded that he would never succeed as a practising artist, he studied languages, mathematics, literature, anthropology, philosophy, and art history. He received his BA in art history and philosophy in 1924. His doctoral dissertation, on the early 12th-century cloister and portal of the abbey of St Pierre, Moissac, in south-western France, was accepted by Columbia in 1929. Two years later part of his dissertation was published in the Art Bulletin, from which time Schapiro was widely acknowledged as a scholar of Romanesque sculpture. However, his interests were always more wide-ranging, and from an early age he was committed to the ‘deep connections of art with the totality of culture’. He was equally renowned for his knowledge of 19th- and early 20th-century art, as well as for his friendships with contemporary artists. He was also one of the first art historians influenced by literary criticism, leading to his publication in ...

Article

Monica McTighe

(b New York City, Jan 16, 1933; d New York City, Dec 28, 2004).

American writer and critic. Born Susan Rosenblatt in New York City, she was raised in Arizona and California. She entered college at the age of 15 and received a BA from the University of Chicago in 1951. She earned MA degrees in English and Philosophy from Harvard University in 1954 and 1955, respectively. In the late 1950s she attended Oxford University for a year. Sontag married sociologist Philip Rieff in 1951 with whom she had a son. After their divorce she settled in New York City. Sontag was a noted cultural critic and public intellectual. Although best known for her essays, especially ‘Notes on Camp’ published in Partisan Review in 1964, she also wrote books of non-fiction, novels, and plays, and directed theatre productions and films.

Sontag’s On Photography (1977) earned her a reputation as an influential critic of photography. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award in ...

Article

Jaynie Anderson

(b Berlin, May 14, 1900; d London, Sept 12, 1971).

German art historian active in Germany, the USA, and England. His work transcends the conventional categories of academic specialization, combining philosophical and aesthetic insight with a sensitive eye and an exceptional range of historical and literary learning. He studied Classics, philosophy, and art history in Berlin, Freiburg, and Vienna, obtaining his DPhil in 1922 in Hamburg under Erwin Panofsky with a thesis on the relation between aesthetic appreciation and historical scholarship. The neo-Kantian influence of Ernst Cassirer in Hamburg was soon superseded by the pragmatism of Charles S. Pierce, which he encountered while teaching philosophy at North Carolina (1925–7). On his return to Hamburg as research assistant at the Bibliothek Warburg, this pragmatism was infused with Aby Warburg’s concept of cultural history, interest in the psychological potency of images, and fascination with significant detail. The close relationship between the two men is documented in Warburg’s diaries. After submitting his anti-Kantian treatise, ...