TURNING POINTS IN TWENTIETH CENTURY ART: 1890-1917 by Werner Hofmann

TURNING POINTS IN TWENTIETH CENTURY ART: 1890-1917

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Taking off from Clement Greenberg's famous requiem for the easel picture, Dr. Hofmann, Director of the Museum of the 20th Century in Vienna, examines the roots of its displacement--which he views not as a loss but as a renewal and reunion of the related arts--and in the process assigns to Art Nouveau (here Jugendstil, as per the German orientation) a salient role. In this respect he enlarges upon the Selz and Constantine Art Nouveau, itself a step toward establishing the movement as more than a quixotic curiosity; but his aim is more ambitious--no less than to invalidate the traditional concentration on internal developments in painting from Post-Impressionism to Abstraction. By close analysis and comparison of thematically and/or formally related works (all illustrated) by embracing not only sculpture, architecture and decoration (in addition to painting) but also pertinent references to literature and excerpts from critical writings both contemporary and more current, he amasses impressive evidence for his thesis. Included is a discussion of the break between Expressionism and Cubism, of the significance of the ascendancy of the latter, of the succeeding polarity between Dada and De Stijl. In concluding, he sees abstraction as auxiliary to the central thrust, the consolidation of previously discrete categories. For anyone seriously concerned with the state of the arts, it's a revisionist study of considerable portent.

Pub Date: May 19th, 1969
Publisher: Braziller