The Art of Scam

Roger Kimball, who edits the New Criterion and does art criticism for National Review, has set out to achieve two goals in this thin, concise book: pointing out “the depredations practiced by criticism on art” and aiming “to encourage the benevolent civilizing elements that have traditionally been accorded to our encounters with good art.”  Despite the limited range of the examples of fine art that Kimball examines (owing to his need to find illustrations for “the rape of the masters”), he does advance both of his purposes in the course of his work.  Those artists he discusses—Courbet, Cézanne, Winslow Homer, Sargent, Rubens, Mark Rothko, Van Gogh, and Gauguin—become more familiar to us through his treatment of their would-be interpreters; and though not every artist considered ranks among the great geniuses, Kimball shows what the observer should be alert to in viewing his art.  Since his tastes, moreover, are broad enough to embrace artistic developments over many centuries, Kimball can explain with equal ease the distinctive characteristics of artists in different periods and employing different techniques.

Kimball is devastating in skewering psychoanalytic and other indefensibly subjective interpretations of artists and their works.  Indeed, by the time one has read through several chapters, it would seem that the sick puppies have taken...

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