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Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism Hardcover – March 11, 1999

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

No two social or aesthetic movements have been as agonizingly debated and lamented as Modernism and Socialism. Both arose in the wake of the French Revolution, and both were deemed untenable by the late 1980s. In this career-defining work, a collection of seven ruminative essays on the "co-dependency" of these concepts, eminent art historian Clark offers not so much a summation as an archeology, working through "limit cases" in the long and tortured relationship of art and politics, from David's shrewd positioning of his portrait of Citizen Marat within the fervor of the French Revolution to the perceived "anarchism" of Pissarro's laboring field women and the social meanings of Jackson Pollock's post-War drip paintings (Clark reads them in two intriguing contexts: first, as an expression of "lordly," aristocratic attitude, dismissing content in favor of form; and secondly, in terms of their use as backdrops for a 1950 Vogue magazine photo shoot). He writes about politics and art without cynicism, speaking often in the direct, if melancholy, voice of one who wants something to have been, so that it might still be. Clark's is a reclamation project: he seeks to return agency to the artists and paintings that gave face to modernity, and to steer us, as readers and interpreters, away from facile historicism on the one hand, and formalism on the other. The essays in this volume are always historically nuanced, aglow with Clark's deep learning and masterful prose; they will doubtlessly elicit much praise and be the subject of much debate.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This synthesis of three decades of Clark's (modern art, Univ. of California, Berkeley) thinking and writing about modern art is not a simple book. It raises basic questions on the vitality and viability of modernism and its relation to other intellectual, political, and social developments of the 20th century. Modernism's duality, its inward reflecting and outward reaching, is echoed in Clark's approach, which treats both a broad historic view and specific works of art in relation to the material world. The reader is exposed to philosophical rumination, critical detail, and historic perspective: from David at work during the Terror of the late 18th century to C?zanne painting at the time Freudian theory was evolving to Pollock's view of an abstract form reaching outward limits. A difficult, thought-provoking work that requires almost as much effort on the part of the reader as that of the author but is well worth the effort. For all academic art collections.APaula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; y First edition edition (March 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300075324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300075328
  • Product Dimensions: 11.8 x 7.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #897,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have known for many years that this book would one day be written, and its publication thus offers a moment of high excitement--- and somewhat less bafflement, although more surprises, and occasional astonishment, than I had expected in the actual reading.
Farewell to an Idea by T.J. Clark is an extraordinarily personalized text--- also long, dense, and carefully written, as any reader of Clark has come to expect. His new book is necessarily idiosyncratic, often brilliant--- with illustrations (many in color) of a quality of reproduction overarchingly essential to the book's aims.
Modern art criticism (and the criticism of modern art) will not easily be the same after this book, and a good thing is that Farewell to an Idea will not provide easy fodder to the multitude of its author's exegetes and followers--- for it is the "full monty" this time. And one does not imagine imitators.
For what it is worth, the book comprises a vast erudition and experience in the matter and materials of mass culture in the twentieth century, but claims little familiarity with mass society. For it was indeed thought out and written in the "wilds" of Northern California, as Tim Clark is, and for some years has been, Chancellor's Professor of Modern Art at the University of California at Berkeley--- conceived not in the "flats", then, but on high ground.
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Format: Paperback
Clark opened me to Courbet (and later Michael Fried} for which I am grateful. Here, his sleuthing unearths fresh and welcome insights into another brace of 'old' subjects. His intimate relationships to key works makes for a rivetting and informative read. The spell of his writing is such that, though I'm not attracted to any of the artists whose work goes under his scope, I found, in each instance, my sympathies were elicited. If the questions asked of the art are, whose mentality is recorded by these paintings; what action or situation yields the views which painters perceive and represent as an aspect of reality; and who are the protagonists and antagonists reflected within the painting's points of view(as Clark has) then you have an enticing context in which to frame old fuddy, duddy David, the cumbersome peasant women of Pissaro, Cezanne's androgynous 'Bathers',the congested spatial tricks of Picasso's cubism, the nihilistic utopia of Suprematism, and the vulgarity of Abstract Expressionism/ The New York School(my abbreviations, not Clark's). The close raking over the painting's content, context & textures is first rate, and convincing. Highly recommended.For more on art visit>rodmoss.com
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Format: Paperback
TJ Clark travels between the French Revolution and the fall of the Berlin Wall,the period which gave birth to modernism in art,specifically painting,from David's Death of Marat to Jackson Pollock's drip paintings.Called Farewell to an Idea ( with subtitle Episodes from a History of Modernism).The concept of revolutionary socialism which gave birth to Marxism and anarchic socialism is the framework of the painting.The mood is one of elegiac sadness,pathos at the dying embers of revolutionary hope,an elegy for modernism's unrealized promise.Socialism and modernism are coterminious,feeding each other.This leads to clarity rather than obfuscation and the avoidance of jargon words,and an improvement over surveys of modernism.The progressive abstraction that grew where structures, marks and signifiers departed from objective representation(photography did that),as art reflected ever more deeply on itself.The autonomous work of art had no parameters outside its own surface materiality.This covers moments of rupture and anti-art like cubism,surrealism,abstract expressionism,absolute inwardness/exteriority.

He covers the apocalyptic nature of utopian nihilism and Freudian anxiety.He begins modernism early,from the French Revolution.Marat's murder and the subsequent painting as the revolution was for the future project of democracy. "I am doing it because I want to think about modernism as a set of responses to modern social and political conditions." He depicts the mystery of the letter,the writing,the background,the dedication,how it engages with politics and the world's disenchantment.Modernist work is a painting produced at times of "maximum (social and political) stress",which replies to those extreme circumstances with an extreme response.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am only in chapter one. But I believe this book is the best example for how the art history should be written.
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