THE CULT OF ART by Jean Gimpel


Email this review


Inveighing ""Against Art and Artists,"" Mr. Gimpel cites as characteristically debased and deluded. . . Adolf Hitler, and much of his argument, however extensively footnoted, is equally crude. Surveying the history of art, he sees Giotto as ""the first bourgeois painter,"" the Medici responsible for patronizing art ""at the expense of the man in the street"" and fostering elitism, the Counter-Reformation reintegrating artists in society. ""They lost their freedom but until the advent of romanticism there was to be no bohemian living, no maladjustment, no living outside the law."" It is this last--the, making of artists into ""gods or demi-gods,"" indifferent to society--that he rails against repeatedly, finding it symptomatic of ""Western decadence."" Expectably more sympathetic and therefore more finely-shaded is his account of French social realism, Diderot and David to Proudhon and Courbet. He does not, however, vaunt present Soviet practice: the ""Fine Arts"" are doomed and must make way for the new, truly mass media of photography, films and television. Much of this was anticipated by Arnold Hauser in The Social History of Art, but whereas Hauser concludes that ""Genuine progressive, creative art can only mean a complicated art today,"" Gimpel would empty art of everything but a simple affirmative content; to abolish the ""Cult"" he would eliminate the art.

Pub Date: Nov. 25th, 1969
Publisher: Stein & Day