Barry Schwabsky

Barry Schwabsky’s latest book is Heretics of Language, a collection of essays.

A Most Consistent Man: Renoir

Barry Schwabsky, 13 September 2018

The retort​ was cutting. Albert C. Barnes, the Philadelphia art collector who by the time of his death in 1951 owned 181 paintings by Auguste Renoir, was trying to one-up Duncan Phillips, who had recently spent the then considerable sum of $125,000 on Luncheon of the Boating Party – widely considered one of Renoir’s greatest works (and still the highlight of the Phillips...

I live in my world: Willem de Kooning

Barry Schwabsky, 22 September 2016

Could​ anything be more unexpected, in the world of art criticism, than the appearance of a book by Rosalind Krauss on Willem de Kooning? Krauss is a wide-ranging critic and historian of modernism, the author of an influential book on Picasso, but she has been associated above all with minimalist and post-minimalist sculptors of her own generation or slightly older – figures such as...

At Bozar: Luc Tuymans

Barry Schwabsky, 14 April 2011

Luc Tuymans’s painting Altar (2002) depicts a wedding chapel in a Mormon temple. It’s a space that only church members are allowed to enter, so – as Ralph Rugoff recounts in the catalogue to the retrospective of the Belgian painter’s work at Bozar, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels (until 8 May) – Tuymans based the painting on a photograph taken by a...

At the Grand Palais: Christian Boltanski

Barry Schwabsky, 11 February 2010

Frank Stella once complained about what he saw as a kind of timidity in Italian painting before Leonardo, something ‘in the acceptance of commissioned configurations, in the attitude towards covering a given surface that held painting back … Artists before Leonardo accepted the given surface and made the best of it.’ Today, it seems to me, artists who make installations...

At Tate Britain: Bridget Riley

Barry Schwabsky, 10 July 2003

One of the subtlest and most entrancing of Bridget Riley’s early paintings, Static 2 (1966), consists of a field of black spots arranged in a pure grid, 25 by 25, across a white square. Static, as the title says, and yet the painting isn’t inert: a lovely sense of inner movement is conveyed by the way the spots, which are not pure circles but mildly oval, are systematically...

Makeshiftness: Who is Menzel?

Barry Schwabsky, 17 April 2003

Michael Fried, who is also a poet, has a dense, self-questioning, fervent prose style. Somewhat perversely he has, over the last three decades – that is, since his doctoral dissertation on Manet was printed as a special issue of Artforum in 1969 – put this prose to the service of art-historical scholarship. It might have been otherwise. While still in his twenties Fried had become...


To Produce Good Fruits

19 November 2020

In his review of Edgar Degas’s letters edited by Theodore Reff, Julian Barnes succeeds in conveying the artist’s complex personality as well as his pungent way with words (LRB, 19 November). But, presumably following Reff’s translation, he slightly muffs a line from a letter Degas sent from New Orleans to Lorenz Frølich on 27 November 1872. As Barnes has it: ‘If you insist...

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