1. Jack.Dobbyn

    Nice to have something to get our teeth into. Niyazi’s own site has engaging commentary on Caravaggio. Caravaggio filtered through Fried is deadly.

  2. Dionisio

    Are we sure Fried has a “cognitive philosophy”? His real subject, if previous work can be called into play here, is not the work at hand—in this case, Caravaggio. It is the kind of overblown academic rhetoric that intimidates (the uninitiated) more than it informs. Can we stick to Freedberg, please? Or Friedlander?

  3. Beatrice

    Jarring, yes. Profound? Jury is out on that. Fried cashes in on his prior association with Freedberg (glad to see it mentioned). But, in the main, he offers less insight than contemporary academese. Didn’t Roger Kimball (not someone I like to quote, but hey!) say the same thing back in 2002 in “Art’s Prospect.”?

  4. Rob Eshghi

    I have not read the catalogue so perhaps Fried’s discussion of Valentin is broader than I can glean from the quote. But any really useful commentary on “Fortune Teller” should reference its relation to the genre–literary no less than pictorial–of the trickster. I am thinking of de la Tour’s “The Card Players” from the 1630s.

  5. Some readers (like me) will view Hasan’s comments as clear and incisive. Others will dismiss them as irrelevant. And so it goes…! Michael Fried is perceptive (in his way) and highly intelligent (in his way) but (to borrow a line from Raymond Chandler), “When do we get to the part about why I am supposed to care?” An essential question, as Hasan notes, is the appropriate role and function of exhibition catalogues. I used to buy them as a matter of course, for the illustrations and (heaven help us!) THE FACTS. But that was then and this is now!

  6. From.the.Stacks

    The role and function of exhibition catalogues? To permit tenure track faculty an opportunity to impress their tenure committee. That is THE FACT that underlies all the others. Unless we approach visual art as an archeological artifact, much of what constitutes catalogue writing is cranked out for institutional reasons. And with an eye on pension planning.

  7. Thank you for linking to the review on my site! Having read this catalog entry by Fried, I have to admit that I found many of his comments to be insightful (although not too different in content from other publications that I have read by him). Admittedly, though, parts of his essay were rather dense and verbose.

    I think H Niyazi has hit at the crux of the issue with Fried and his varied appeal. He is not interesting in analyzing art history from a “social historical” approach (which is considered part of traditional art historical practice). He is a postmodern theorist and is interested in encouraging the viewer/reader to think about the process of looking at art. Although I do think that Fried’s essay seemed out-of-place in conjunction with the other social historical essays in the catalog, I got the sense that the catalog editors were trying to appeal to both “Old School” and “New School” approaches to art history.

  8. Many thanks to all for the insightful comments.

    @Dionisio/Beatrice – Fried’s style is overblown and rhetorical in passages – if we are to add “academic” it should be qualified that it is the language of an academic of another genre and approach to art (as Alberti’s Window highlighted). Anyone can easily pick up and read John Shearman’s “Only Connect” or Marcia Hall’s “The Sacred Image in the Age of Art” (two sterling Early Modern academics) and not be ambushed by academic language. It seems to come down to a conscious choice by the author. As we see in the descriptions of the paintings themselves, Fried can be crisp and concise if he wants to…though his interest seems to be in the internal (cognitive) processes related to creating and viewing art – an interesting topic but unfortunately obscured in dense language.

    @Ed – ha! even if you did not append your name to that comment I would have known it was you. Many thanks for reading, and the characteristically wonderful insight!

    @From.the.stacks – I would venture to say that type of thing is not isolated to the academic publishing industry! Many catalogue volumes are valuable resources for students and scholars alike. The NGA exhibition volume on the Venetian Renaissance, or the NGLondon catalog on Renaissance portraits are great examples. Overall, this one is pretty good – I focused on Fried’s piece for this post because it did seem out of place, or at best, experimental (from a publisher perspective).

    @Mickey D – cheers for the mention – there are in fact even more posts on this topic from 2010 – since described as “the year of Caravaggio” – as my site has a Renaissance/Baroque focus – it was unavoidable. They can all be accessed from this link:

    @Rob – The genre you speak of is explored in greater depth in the catalog proper. Fried does go into more detail, but is less concerned with sources. You can actually listen to Fried’s presentation on the Carravagisti – which his catalog entry is based on – at the NGA Washington podcast site (free): http://www.nga.gov/podcasts/freedberg/index.shtm

    @Albertis Window – I wonder if more Early Modern publications will be so daring and throw in another dense theoretical essay among the social history stuff? We’ll have to wait and see!

    Many thanks to Maureen for the opportunity to post at Studio Matters. It was an honour and delight.

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