Art criticism

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Jonathan Richardson coined the term 'art criticism' in 1719.

Art criticism is the discussion or evaluation of visual art. Art critics usually criticise art in the context of aesthetics or the theory of beauty. A goal of art criticism is the pursuit of a rational basis for art appreciation, but it is questionable whether such criticism can transcend prevailing socio-political circumstances.

CONTENT : A - F, G - L, M - R, S - Z, See also, External links


Quotes are arranged alphabetically by author

A - F

  • One wonders how the literary revisionists and canon cleansers can bear to take the money. Imagine a school of sixteenth century art criticism that spent its time contently jeering at the past for not knowing about perspective.
    • Martin Amis Political Correctness: Robert Bly and Philip Larkin (1997)
  • It didn’t pay very much, but it enabled me to get other jobs doing art criticism, which I didn’t want to do very much, but as so often when you exhibit reluctance to do something, people think you must be very good at it. If I had set out to be an art critic, I might never have succeeded.
  • La critique est aisée, et l'art est difficile.
    • Criticism is easy, and art is difficult.
    • Philippe Néricault Destouches, Glorieux, II, 5. in: Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 149-52.
  • In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends... Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.
  • About ten degrees upslope of Fiction, I could see our nearest neighbor: Artistic Criticism. It was an exceptionally beautiful island, yet deeply troubled, confused and suffused with a blanketing layer of almost impenetrable bullshit.

G - L

  • Évidemment, les critiques n'ont été créés que le septième jour. S'ils avaient été créés le premier, qu'auraient-ils eu à faire?
    • Critics must have been created on the seventh day. Because if God had created them on the first day, what on earth would they have done?
    • Goncourt brothers March 8, 1863; translation from Robert Baldick Dinner at Magny's (London: Victor Gollancz, 1971) p. 77.
  • We must grant the artist his subject, his idea, his donné: our criticism is applied only to what he makes of it.
  • When a twelfth-century youth fell in love he did not take three paces backward, gaze into her eyes, and tell her she was too beautiful to live. He said he would step outside and see about it. And if, when he got out, he met a man and broke his head—the other man's head, I mean—then that proved that his—the first fellow's—girl was a pretty girl. But if the other fellow broke his head—not his own, you know, but the other fellow's—the other fellow to the second fellow, that is, because of course the other fellow would only be the other fellow to him, not the first fellow who—well, if he broke his head, then his girl—not the other fellow's, but the fellow who was the—Look here, if A broke B's head, then A's girl was a pretty girl; but if B broke A's head, then A's girl wasn't a pretty girl, but B's girl was. That was their method of conducting art criticism.

M - R

  • In schools, for example, there are courses in the criticism of literature, art criticism, and so forth. The arts are supposed to be 'not real.' It is quite safe, therefore, to criticize them in that regard -- to see how a story or a painting is constructed, or more importantly, to critically analyze the structure of ideas, themes, or beliefs that appear, say, in the poem or work of fiction. When children are taught science, there is no criticism allowed. They are told, 'This is how things are.' Science's reasons are given as the only true statements about reality, with which no student is expected to quarrel. Any strong intellectual explorations or counter versions of reality have appeared in science fiction, for example. Here scientists, many being science-fiction buffs, can channel their own intellectual questioning into a safe form. 'This is, after all, merely imaginative and not to be taken seriously.'
    • Jane Roberts in The God of Jane: A Psychic Manifesto, p. 145-146
  • One cannot, however, avoid saying a few words about individuals who lay down the law to art in the name of art history. Art criticism today is beset by art historians turned inside out to function as prophets of so-called inevitable trends. A determinism similar to that projected into the evolution of past styles is clamped upon art in the making. In this parody of art history, value judgments are deduced from a presumed logic of development, and an ultimatum is issued to artists either to accommodate themselves to these values or be banned from the art of the future.
  • In 1968 the American critic Jack Burnham published Beyond Modern Sculpture, the first of a series of books and articles on contemporary sculpture produced over the following five years that attempted to establish a post-formalist discourse. The culmination of this project was the exhibition Software staged at the Jewish Museum in New York in 1970 and Burnham’s theoretical treatise The Structure of Art, which was perhaps the first sustained attempt to provide a model of structuralist art criticism and theory.
    At the root of Burnham’s project were two inter-related concerns; the first, a quasi-determinist notion that the historical development of sculptural practice during the 20th century was the consequence of scientific and technological innovations and, second, a notion that traditional art historical terminology was inadequate to its critical analysis.

S - Z

  • The most useful criticism in any art [form] is new work done with the same tools [as previous art].

See also

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