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Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism
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Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  62 ratings  ·  9 reviews
In this volume, art historian T.J. Clark offers a vision of the art of the 19th and 20th centuries, focusing on moments when art responded directly, in extreme terms, to the ongoing disaster called modernity.
Paperback, 460 pages
Published February 8th 2001 by Yale University Press (first published March 11th 1999)
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I've only read about half the book, so that's what I'm commenting on.

The basic premise, as far as I understood it, is this: modernism (as in the styles and trends that characterized the modern era, including modern art) was an attempt to retain something sacred or mythic in a world that was becoming more and more secular. Along with this, modernism also wanted to find a system of representation that would directly reflect and communicate with the reality that people were living in (as opposed to...more
Virginia Bryant
These are more notes then an actual review.

An interesting and scholarly mind makes this a fun read, though i do not always agree with everything said here. What is good, is the depth of historical knowledge, especially in the chapters on David, Pissaro, Litsky and Malevich. Pollock is always fascinating, but cubism, i think is a false idol.

I take issue with this, Adorno’s quote there in, “Dissonance is effectively the same as expression, whereas consonance and harmony seek to soften and do away...more
Guess I shouldn't be too surprised that a Marxist art historian would give a grim view of the history of art. But what a pompous a**! Read a little about Clark and you will find out about his intolerance and well known history for violating students' academic freedom.

Here's a good (very detailed) review:

And "I got that new book by TJ Clark, Farewell to an Idea. It made me feel like dirt. Painters don't look at paintings as social documents. We look at what...more
To all of us who have been bewildered about modern art, here is a good place to begin and Clark is an expert interlocutor.
Heroic. Modernism does not exist in the academy anymore: In English language studies, the "field" of modernism has been parceled out to queer studies, women's studies, cultural studies, post-colonialism, etc. In art history, perhaps modernism has persisted as a curatorial project, but Clark's approach, taking in Freud, philosophy, literature, economics, and anthropology/sociology, is wide-ranging at the same time it's intense. His marxism (Clark was a Situationist in London in the Sixties, whose...more
This book put me to sleep every night for a month. No joke, it was like a pill. Yet, I soldiered on, feeling that revelations were locked inside the meandering chapters.
The author certainly chose fascinating episodes from the history of modernism in visual art: Cezanne's late works (the stiff and unappealing "Bathers"), El Lissitsky and Malevich on the eve of the Russian Revolution-- GREAT subjects, but sadly the writing is untterly convoluted, no sign of an editor whatsoever, and never was one...more
Ed Smiley
This is a perhaps brilliant, but quirky and somewhat opaque book, an uneven surface of dense ropy coils of thought, one might say. At times the text veers into the land of art speak self parody, and suddenly flashes with either illumination, or an unusual insight. I am not sure that this book "explains" modern art to the general reader, its style is too much that of a kind of layering of metaphors that invites close reading, and demands active participation, and the patience to tolerate a style...more
May 06, 2009 Daniel added it
probably will read this again in school. right now I'm taking the 5th because I would to meet tj clark.
Gideon Shapiro
modern art and socialism
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Timothy James Clark often known as T.J. Clark, is an art historian and writer, born in 1943 in Bristol, England.

Clark attended Bristol Grammar School. He completed his undergraduate studies at St. John's College, Cambridge University, he obtained a first-class honours degree in 1964. He received his Ph.D. in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London in 1973. He lectured...more
More about T.J. Clark...
The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers The Sight of Death: An Experiment in Art Writing Image of the People: Gustave Courbet and the 1848 Revolution Picasso and Truth: From Cubism to Guernica Richard Misrach: Golden Gate

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“Modernism had two great wishes. It wanted its audience to be led toward a recognition of the social reality of the sign (away from the comforts of narrative and illusionism, was the claim); but equally it dreamed of turning the sign back to a bedrock of World/Nature/Sensation/Subjectivity which the to and fro of capitalism had all but destroyed.” 6 likes
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