Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for Three American Painters, the text of his book Morris Louis, and the renowned "Art and Objecthood." Originally published between 1962 and 1977, they continue to generate debate today. These are uncompromising, exciting, and impassioned writings, aware of their transformative power during a time of intense controversy about the nature of modernism and the aims and essence of advanced painting and sculpture.
Ranging from brief reviews to extended essays, and including major critiques of Jackson Pollock, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella, and Anthony Caro, these writings establish a set of basic terms for understanding key issues in high modernism: the viability of Clement Greenberg’s account of the infralogic of modernism, the status of figuration after Pollock, the centrality of the problem of shape, the nature of pictorial and sculptural abstraction, and the relationship between work and beholder. In a number of essays Fried contrasts the modernist enterprise with minimalist or literalist art, and, taking a position that remains provocative to this day, he argues that minimalism is essentially a genre of theater, hence artistically self-defeating.
For this volume Fried has also provided an extensive introductory essay in which he discusses how he became an art critic, clarifies his intentions in his art criticism, and draws crucial distinctions between his art criticism and the art history he went on to write. The result is a book that is simply indispensable for anyone concerned with modernist painting and sculpture and the task of art criticism in our time.
Michael Fried University of Chicago Press, 1990 Library of Congress ND553.C9F74 1990 | Dewey Decimal 759.4
"'This book,' Michael Fried's work opens, 'was written not so much chapter by chapter as painting by painting over a span of roughly ten years.' Courbet's Realism is a magnificent work and its very first sentence brings us up against the qualities of mind of its author, qualities that make it as impressive as it is. It allows us to reconstruct the keen eye, the commitment to perception, the gift of rapt concentration, the conviction that great paintings are not necessarily understood easily, and the further conviction that a great painter deserves to get from us as good as he gives. By drawing on these qualities, Fried achieves something out of reach for all but a handful of his colleagues. In his writing, art history takes on some of the character of art itself. It is driven by the same stubborn resolve to open our eyes."—Richard Wollheim, San Francisco Review of Books
Courbet's Realism is clearly a major contribution to the highly active field of Courbet studies. . . . But to contribute here and now is necessarily also to contribute to central debates about art history itself, and so the book is also—I hesitate to say 'more importantly,' because of the way object and method are woven together in it—a major contribution to current attempts to rethink the foundations and objects of art history. . . . It will not be an easy book to come to terms with; for all its engagement with contemporary literary theory and related developments, it is not an application of anything, and its deeply thought-through arguments will not fall easily in line with the emerging shapes of the various 'new art histories' that tap many of the same theoretical resources. At this moment, there may be nothing more valuable than such a work."—Stephen Melville, Art History
From Manet to Gericault, Daubigny to Corot, an insightful, breathtakingly original exploration of French art and literature.
French Suite examines a range of important French painters and two writers, Baudelaire and Flaubert, from the brothers Le Nain in the mid-seventeenth century to Manet, Degas, and the Impressionists in the later nineteenth century. A principal theme of Michael Fried’s essays is a fundamental concern of his throughout his career: the relationship between painting and the beholder. Fried’s typically vivid and strongly argued essays offer many new readings and unexpected insights, examining both familiar and lesser-known French artistic and literary works.
Over the last decades, Gustave Caillebotte (1848–1894), a long-neglected painter associated with the French Impressionists, has suddenly become the subject of intense public interest and renewed scholarly debate. With a series of important exhibitions recently showcasing his work, Caillebotte’s enigmatic paintings have begun to exert an unexpected fascination for postmodern audiences, and they have become rich sites for interpretive debate.
The essays that comprise this volume exemplify the best aspects of recent Caillebotte scholarship. They employ a variety of perspectives to examine the ways in which his art sheds light on the formation of individual and class identities in Paris during the early years of the Third Republic—an era of transition marked by the burgeoning of capitalism and the instabilities of newly shifting gender roles in the modern world.
Addressing a wide range of major paintings by Caillebotte, the contributors reveal the compound ways in which the artist encoded his images and the multiple interpretations to which these images are susceptible. Juxtaposed so as to complement and challenge one another, these essays build a provocative whole as they probe issues of spectatorship and authorial intention. The contributors—all internationally known scholars and art professionals—create an important theoretical framework for the discussion of Caillebotte’s work.
Manet's Modernism is the culminating work in a trilogy of books by Michael Fried exploring the roots and genesis of pictorial modernism. Fried provides an entirely new understanding not only of the art of Manet and his generation but also of the way in which the Impressionist simplification of Manet's achievement had determined subsequent accounts of pictorial modernism down to the present. Like Fried's previous books, Manet's Modernism is a milestone in the historiography of modern art.
"Beautifully produced. . . . [Fried's] thought is always stimulating, if not provocative. This is an important book, which all students of modernism, in the broadest sense, will find rewarding."—Virginia Quarterly Review
"An astonishing piece of scholarship that will cause readers to rethink their understanding of Manet's influence, ambition, and achievement."—Gary Michael, Bloomsbury Review
"An audaciously brilliant book, long awaited and as essential reading for philosophers as for art historians."—Wayne Andersen, Common Knowledge
"Art history of the highest originality and distinction."—Arthur C. Danto, New York Times Book Review
The Next Bend in the Road
Michael Fried University of Chicago Press, 2004 Library of Congress PS3556.R48825N49 2004 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
"In America today there is no lyric work more compelling and well made than To the Center of the Earth," Allen Grossman wrote ten years ago of Michael Fried's last collection of poetry. Fried's new book, The Next Bend in the Road, is a powerfully coherent gathering of lyric and prose poems that has the internal scope of a novel with a host of characters, from the poet's wife and daughter to Franz Kafka, Paul Cézanne, Osip Mandelstam, Sigmund Freud, Gisèle Lestrange, and many others; transformative encounters with works of art, literature, and philosophy, including Heinrich von Kleist's "The Earthquake in Chile," Giuseppe Ungaretti's "Veglia," and Edouard Manet's Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe; and, running through the book from beginning to end, a haunted awareness of the entanglement of the noblest accomplishments and the most intimate joys with the horrors of modern history.
The achievements of Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo were, even during a period of unprecedented artistry, out of the ordinary. Born in Brescia around 1480, he radically reimagined Christian subjects. His surviving oeuvre of roughly fifty paintings—from the intensely poetic Tobias and the Angel to sober self-portraits—represents some of the most profound work of the period. In Painting with Demons, a beautifully illustrated book and the first in English devoted to the painter, Michael Fried brings his celebrated skills of looking and thinking to bear on Savoldo’s art, providing a stunning contribution to our understanding both of the early modern European imagination and of the achievement of this underappreciated artist.
"A highly original and gripping account of the works of Eakins and Crane. That remarkable combination of close reading and close viewing which Fried uniquely commands is brought to bear on the problematic nature of the making of images, of texts, and of the self in nineteenth-century America."—Svetlana Alpers, University of California, Berkeley
"An extraordinary achievement of scholarship and critical analysis. It is a book distinguished not only for its brilliance but for its courage, its grace and wit, its readiness to test its arguments in tough-minded ways, and its capacity to meet the challenge superbly. . . . This is a landmark in American cultural and intellectual studies."—Sacvan Bercovitch, Harvard University
“My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see. That—and no more, and it is every-thing.” So wrote Joseph Conrad in the best-known account of literary impressionism, the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century movement featuring narratives that paint pictures in readers’ minds. If literary impressionism is anything, it is the project to turn prose into vision.
But vision of what? Michael Fried demonstrates that the impressionists sought to compel readers not only to see what was described and narrated but also to see writing itself. Fried reads Conrad, Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, W. H. Hudson, Ford Madox Ford, H. G. Wells, Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Erskine Childers, R. B. Cunninghame Graham, and Edgar Rice Burroughs as avatars of the scene of writing. The upward-facing page, pen and ink, the look of written script, and the act of inscription are central to their work. These authors confront us with the sheer materiality of writing, albeit disguised and displaced so as to allow their narratives to proceed to their ostensible ends.
What Was Literary Impressionism? radically reframes a large body of important writing. One of the major art historians and art critics of his generation, Fried turns to the novel and produces a rare work of insight and erudition that transforms our understanding of some of the most challenging fiction in the English language.