The Rape of the Masters by Roger Kimball
As in other areas of our intellectual life, the practice of art history and art criticism has been increasingly corrupted in recent years by, for lack of a more precise term, the ideology of political correctness. Case in point: the Modigliani show at the Jewish Museum this past summer. Here, an early-20th-century artist recognized as a genuine “little master” of the School of Paris was subjected to an entirely bogus effort to reinvent him as a Jewish socialist “conceptualist.” This was arrant nonsense, and it also entailed an injustice. Modigliani’s art, having been injected with a non-existent motive—the desire for “progressive” social change—was made out to be something other, and something less, than what it actually is.
Such injustices are common these days, if not prevalent, according to Roger Kimball in The Rape of the Masters. His book examines eight examples of contemporary art-historical revisionism, tracing its roots to the writings of the French philosophers Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida. Kimball also offers useful insights into how one should think about art. Above all, his book stands as a record of protest against intellectualism run amok.
About the Author
Steven C. Munson’s contributions to COMMENTARY include “David Smith’s Vision” (May 2006) and “Inside the New MOMA” (February 2005).