Sacred Art

Beckmann's Deposition, a Modernist Offering

We who live in the Western world at the present time continue to suffer under the reign of a great tyranny — the tyranny of artistic modernism. New English Review , August 2012
  It gets tiring, this lingering need to swipe at modernism. To the extent a date applies, the waning of modernism hovers between the late 1930s and the end of the Second World War. Yet seven decades later, one Quixote or another still gallops forward to tilt at the carcass. Continue Reading
Catholic Art?

The previous post ended with reference to what “the centuries have wrought.” A reader emailed me to ask—hopefully—if I was referring to modernism. No, not at all. In mind was the kind of emasculate anti-art rampant on plaques, statuary, prayer cards in funeral parlors, and too often in our own churches. Side altars, especially. Pictorially equivalent to sob songs, the stuff mimics Renaissance and Baroque painting but is sorely disconnected from the achievement of its prototypes. Mass produced sentimentality has been the hallmark of Catholic art since the 1840s flooded the market with a cascade of devotional stuffs from French companies located around the church of Saint-Sulpice on the Left Bank. Continue Reading
Beloved Piero

Bernard Berenson called Piero della Francesca “the mighty Tuscan.” Among contemporary painters, he remains the best loved of Renaissance painters, influential to a range of modern artists whose debt to him might not be readily apparent. Nevertheless, renowned as he is among artists, he is not widely known to American audiences. When a respondent to my previous post sent a link to Piero’s Madonna del Parto , it jolted me into contrition for having neglected to say a word about the gem of a Piero exhibition that opened at the Frick in February. Continue Reading
Modernism: An Apologia

Modernism in the arts is an indefinite term. Like fascism , the word gets bandied about despite the absence of any firm idea of what it means. Even the editors of Modernism: 1890-1930 , a widely used text, fell back on this:
The name [i.e. modernism] is clear; the nature of the movement or movements … is much less so. And equally unclear is the status of the stylistic claim we are making. We have noted that few ages have been more multiple, more promiscuous in artistic style; to distil from the multiplicity an overall style or mannerism is a difficult, perhaps even an impossible task.
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