Nothing If Not Critical by Robert Hughes
Selected Essays on Art and Artists

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From Holbein to Hockney, from Norman Rockwell to Pablo Picasso, from sixteenth-century Rome to 1980s SoHo, Robert Hughes looks with love, loathing, warmth, wit and authority at a wide range of art and artists, good, bad, past and present.
   As art critic for Time magazine, internationally acclaimed for his study of modern art, The Shock of the New, he is perhaps America’s most widely read and admired writer on art.  In this book:  nearly a hundred of his finest essays on the subject.
   For the realism of Thomas Eakins to the Soviet satirists Komar and Melamid, from Watteau to Willem de Kooning to Susan Rothenberg, here is Hughes—astute, vivid and uninhibited—on dozens of famous and not-so-famous artists.  He observes that Caravaggio was “one of the hinges of art history; there was art before him and art after him, and they were not the same”; he remarks that Julian Schnabel’s “work is to painting what Stallone’s is to acting”; he calls John Constable’s Wivenhoe Park “almost the last word on Eden-as-Property”; he notes how “distorted traces of [Jackson] Pollock lie like genes in art-world careers that, one might have thought, had nothing to do with his.”  He knows how Norman Rockwell made a chicken stand still long enough to be painted, and what Degas said about success (some kinds are indistinguishable from panic).
   Phrasemaker par excellence, Hughes is at the same time an incisive and profound critic, not only of particular artists, but also of the social context in which art exists and is traded.  His fresh perceptions of such figures as Andy Warhol and the French writer Jean Baudrillard are matched in brilliance by his pungent discussions of the art market—its inflated prices and reputations, its damage to the public domain of culture.  There is a superb essay on Bernard Berenson, and another on the strange, tangled case of the Mark Rothko estate.  And as a finale, Hughes gives us “The SoHoiad,” the mock-epic satire that so amused and annoyed the art world in the mid-1980s.
   A meteor of a book that enlightens, startles, stimulates and entertains.
 

About Robert Hughes

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Robert Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia on July 28, 1938. He studied art and architecture at the University of Sydney. He pursued art criticism mostly as a sideline while painting, writing poetry and serving as a cartoonist for the weekly intellectual journal The Observer. He left Australia and spent time in Italy before settling in London, where he became a well-known critical voice and wrote for several newspapers. He was chief art critic for Time magazine for over 30 years. He wrote several books including The Fatal Shore, American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America, Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America, Things I Didn't Know, and Rome. He also hosted an eight-part documentary about the development of modernism from the Impressionists through Warhol entitled The Shock of the New. It was seen by more than 25 million viewers when it ran first on BBC and then on PBS. He also wrote a book by the same name about the series. He died after a long illness on August 6, 2012 at the age of 74.
 
Published February 22, 2012 by Knopf. 429 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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""The numbed eclecticism of eighties art, its fondness for pastiche and historical deck-shuffling, its vision of art history as a mere box of samples--these,"" writes Hughes, ""were the signs of a culture given over to surfaces, all style and no substance."" New York, he argues, is no longer the ...

Aug 24 1990 | Read Full Review of Nothing If Not Critical: Sele...

Publishers Weekly

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Time 's art critic assesses four centuries of Western art.

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London Review of Books

12 · 27 June 1991 » Andrew Forge » Andrew Forge writes about the painter Frank Auerbach and the writer Robert Hughes, and about works of art in a dark age A downloadable PDF version of this book review is also available for purchase from the London Review Bookshop.

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