Art in Its Own Terms: Selected Criticism 1935-1975

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MFA Publications, 2008 - Art - 288 pages
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According to the important American poet John Ashbery, To read Fairfield Porter is to rediscover art through the eyes of someone whose intuitive love and understanding of it has been matched by few contemporaries, while fellow New York School poet Barbara Guest wrote, Blunt, intuitive, scholarly, inspired--I believe no other critic has so tackled the meaning of twentieth century art, has tightened our vision of it. Known as one of America's finest and most influential painters, Fairfield Porter (1907-1975) was also a prolific and highly insightful art critic. His writing not only reflects the independent, original mind that presided over his own visual works, but also covers an extraordinary period in American art, in which he played the double role of protagonist and witness. This new edition of Art in Its Own Terms restores to print a key statement in the ongoing discussion between Modern art and its past, as Porter reviews such figures as de Kooning, Johns, Cornell, Rodin, Cezanne, Leonardo and many others. Equally seminal are his considerations of the relations between art and science and art and politics. Rackstraw Downes' introduction beautifully sets the stage for this indispensable and wide-ranging volume.

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Perhaps it is my own similarity to Porter which makes me appreciate this book so much, but reading it on the trains of Europe, I felt relieved that somebody could appreciate art without turning it into a vehicle for one's own opinions (which allows art to become something anyway). My favorite thing about the book is how his essays seem to come out of nowhere, and end anywhere. Yet, when they are finished, I find I have swallowed a feast of knowledge on exactly what the title suggested. And that without having to chew through obnoxious prose. His often cryptic writing is 100 percent trustworthy, meaning I learned quickly that he said things only if his intention was for them to be understood. The strand running through his essays - his thought process - was whole and complete. His insight gives me insight into insight.  



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About the author (2008)

Artist, art critic, and poet Fairfield Porter (1907-1975) is recognized as a major twentieth-century American Intimist painter, whose body of work features lyrical depictions of everyday life and portraits of family members and friends, in the manner of the late-nineteenth-century French artists Edouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, whose paintings Porter greatly admired. He successfully produced realist work in the midst of the Abstract Expressionist movement. He has since been hailed by John Ashbery as "perhaps the major American artist of this century." Justin Spring's excellent recent biography, A Life in Art tells Porter's life story--integrating it with his art, art criticism, and poetry--and proves Ashbery's claim. Spring chronicles Porter's upbringing in a wealthy family; his education at Harvard; his youthful travels in Europe and Stalinist Russia; his marriage to Anne Channing Porter, a poet; his bohemian lifestyle, his work as a painter and art critic in New York; and his association with major figures of the American modernist movement, both artists (Alfred Stieglitz, John Marin, Willem de Kooning, and Alex Katz) and poets (John Wheelwright, Kenneth Rexroth, Frank O'Hara, and, finally, James Schuyler, who lived with the Porters for over a decade).

Sanford Schwartz is an independent journalist whose books include "Christen Kobke" and "Artists and Writers." Robert Storr is the Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art at the New York Institute of Fine Arts and former Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Rackstraw Downes's work is represented in numerous museum collections, including the Hirshhorn Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

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