The Evolution of Art: Artworks That Advanced Our Understanding of the Medium, Part I

Today, art can be almost anything. But there was a time in the not-so-distant past when abstraction was inconceivable, and it was believed that art could only represent something that already existed in the real world. There was a time when an object couldn’t be considered art unless it showed evidence of the artist’s touch. And until […]

What Was Abstract Expressionism? A Paint-Splattered Primer on America’s First Major Art Movement

You don’t need to be an art insider to hear the term “Abstract Expressionists” used to describe the inspiration behind all manner of contemporary painting, but what was the original movement all about? Hint: it’s more than just Jackson Pollock drinking and tossing paint on a canvas. In this brief essay from Phaidon’s Art in Time: […]

Know Your Critics: What Did Irving Sandler Do?

Irving Sandler is an artists’ art historian. In contrast to other prominent midcentury art critics—like the New York Times’s John Canaday, who warned him against fraternizing with artists for fear of impairing his critical distance—Sandler purposefully immersed himself in his subjects’ milieu, first in his days as a young reviewer for Artnews and later as […]

Know Your Critics: What Did Leo Steinberg Do?

If you could have dinner with just one 20th-century art historian, you might want to choose Leo Steinberg (1920-2011). Known for delivering garrulously wide-ranging lectures and papers that were as lucid as they were revolutionary, he was also admired for his wit, dropping in enough jazzy lines that Woody Allen could have cherry-picked them for material. The following is […]

Know Your Critics: What Did Meyer Schapiro Do?

Although Meyer Schapiro (1904-1996) was one of the most influential art historians of the 20th century, his legacy is hard to quantify. He was a professor at Columbia University from 1928 until his death; he also lectured at New York University in the early 1930s and thereafter at the New School. For an academic, Schapiro had a uniquely extensive reach through his […]

Know Your Critics: What Did Harold Rosenberg Do?

Known for his support of “action painters”—his term for the Abstract Expressionists—Harold Rosenberg (1906-1978) was, along with Clement Greenberg, at the center of mid-century American art criticism. Together, these two critics developed the vocabulary and analytic tools to understand Abstract Expressionism, and to explain its advancements to the rest of the world. There was, however, a catch: […]