Farewell to an Idea

Farewell to an Idea : Episodes from a History of Modernism

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In this intense and far-reaching book, acclaimed art historian T. J. Clark offers a new vision of the art of the past two centuries, focusing on moments when art responded directly in extreme terms to the ongoing disaster called "modernity". Modernism, Clark argues, was an extreme answer to an extreme condition - the one Max Weber summed up as "the disenchantment of the world". Clark focuses on instances of maximum stress, when the movement revealed its true nature. The book begins with Jacques-Louis David, painting at the height of the Terror in 1793, then leaps forward to Pissarro a hundred years later, struggling to picture Two Young Peasant Women in a way that agreed with his anarchist politics. Next, the author turns in succession to Cezanne's paintings of the Grand Baigneuses and their coincidence in time (and maybe intention) with Freud's launching of psychoanalysis; to Picasso's Cubism, and to avant-garde art after the Russian Revolution. Clark concludes with a reading of Jackson Pollock's tragic version of abstraction and suggests a new set of terms to describe avant-garde art - perhaps in its final flowering - in America after 1945. Shifting between broad, speculative history and intense analysis of specific works, Clark not only transfigures our usual understanding of modern art, he also launches a new set of proposals about modernity itself.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 464 pages
  • 198.12 x 274.32 x 25.4mm | 1,700.96g
  • Yale University Press
  • New Haven, United States
  • English
  • 80 colour pl 210 illustrations
  • 0300089104
  • 9780300089103
  • 183,352

Review quote

"A book whose weight and scope seem to alter the whole geography of art writing." Julian Bell, Times Literary Supplement "I can think of no recent book which has sustained at such a pitch an intricate yet vigorous argumentation, probing originality, the lyrical evocation of the canvas, and a historical meditation of extraordinary depth." Lawrence Rainey, LR B "[a] penetrating intelligence is at work... thrilling, stimulating and immensely educative... an art history like no other." Tariq Ali, The Times "a marvellous book - reflective, learned but also accessible" Anthony Julius, The Observer "Clark digs holes under the ramparts of conventional art history... His book challenges - he hopes it refutes - nearly every feature of the prevailing histories of modernist art." Robert Herbert, New York Review of Books "With Farewell to an Idea, Clark joins modernism's truest spokesmen and critics: Clement Greenberg, Meyer Schapiro, Leo Steinberg... In explosive intellectual impact his work is without peer." Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle/Examiner"

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About T. J. Clark

T.J. Clark is George C. and Helen N. Pardee Professor of Art History at the University of California, Berkeley.

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