Clement Greenberg "Modernist Painting" Essay

1075 Words Nov 17th, 2012 5 Pages
Clement Greenberg, “Modernist Painting”

In his text entitled “Modernist Painting”, Greenberg focuses on the development of painting between the 14th and 19th century and emphasizes on what distinguishes Modernist painting from previous forms of painting, particularly those of the Old Masters. Greenberg begins by relating Modernist art to Kantian philosophy claiming that, the same way Kant used reason in order to examine the limits of reason, Modernist art is when art became self critical because it uses the technique of art to draw attention to its status as art. Indeed, he explains how without this self-examination similar to that of Kant’s reflection on Philosophy, art would’ve been “assimilated to […] therapy” like religion, because
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But based on his analysis though, it seems that paintings of Old Masters and Modernist ones are conflicting, clashing in principles and creating a completely fragmented continuity between them, rather than a smooth transition.

Greenberg celebrates Modernist painting’s attempt at being “self-critical” which in my opinion is interesting because working within the “limits” of a form of art’s medium and emphasizing on its value differentiates this form of painting from previous ones. But it seems to me that focusing solely on the flatness of the medium erases other values that painting could provide to its viewer. Indeed, we can consider that a viewer might appreciate reflecting on the painting’s content. But, would this make him a non-connoisseur of “real” art, and even maybe one who is simply reduced to appreciating Kitsch art in Greenberg’s opinion? (Greenberg highly criticizes this form of painting which focuses on the content rather than the form, vis-à-vis Avant-Garde painting in his “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” text)

Going back to out text if we follow Greenberg’s point of view, by denying depth and realism that the Old Masters were attempting to achieve to perfection, I think that the viewer would no

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