August 25, 2007

A dilettante's guide to art: 1001 Paintings You Should See Before You Die

 In the Smart Set Morgan Meis, a founding member of Flux Factory, reviews Stephen Farthing's book, "1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die," 

"Sometime in the middle of the 19th century painting started to get a little screwed up. It began to worry. Painters stopped simply doing what they were doing and started spending more and more time trying to figure out what they were doing and why. They got into the 'What Is?' question. 'What is Painting?', 'What is Art?' 'What Is…?' It’s hard to blame them for it. The 'What Is?' question was in the air. Chalk it up to the vast and traumatic transformations that ushered in modern times. Everybody was trying to figure out what was different and what was still the same. In painting, the biggest change was in the abandonment of representation as the central task. Nobody was interested in problems of perspective anymore, in figuring out how best to make the world of three dimensions look vaguely like itself on the canvas of two dimensions.

"And yet, for some reason, people still felt the desire to paint. Who knows why? Maybe it was just the need to hold on to a little tradition even as so much else was being swept away. Maybe it was the hope that an old practice could remake itself in a new world. Whatever the explanation, painting managed to remake itself and painters rushed into the 20th century with purpose. They had discovered a new subject matter, painting itself, and they were hot to show off its possibilities. Painting took on a double task, not just to do what it was doing, but also to make a claim about what it should be doing. Painters started talking about painting within their own paintings....

"Nothing follows anything inexorably in 1001 Paintings Before You Must See Before You Die. The only thing inexorable is that, in fact, you must die and, therefore, must also go out and see some paintings before you do."  Read more.

"1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die," by Stephen Farthing (Editor). Cassell Illustrated (9 Nov 2006)

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