Each of the eleven passages excerpted here comes from a different decade in the magazine’s history. See if you can guess who our critics are writing about.
1. Number one is an indifferently modeled head of a woman. Number two is a candidate for an asylum for imbeciles with her retreating chin and goggle eyes. Number three—and we are assured it is the same lady—has the cranium of P. T. Barnum’s “Last of the Aztecs” and the expression of those carved gods from Easter Island you will find in the Museum of Natural History. … For sheer intentional cold-blooded ugliness, for limbs that are swollen as with scurvy or emaciated as by famine, for faces heavy with overdrinking and surfeit or blighted by idiocy, _____ has Gauguin beaten out of sight. Just as Quasimodo threw all the yokels who ever grinned through a horsecollar into the shade when he stuck his hapless face out for the crowd to see, so does Monsieur _____ win the prize for hideous sculpture from the many men in Paris who are striving for that distinction.
- a. Picasso
- b. Matisse
- c. Brancusi
- d. Giacometti
2. His painting is neither about painting nor the “art symbol”: it has to do with looking. Not looking as sensation, nor about the visual world; nor is there a concern with myth (except indirectly perhaps… ). He looks for the first time, like a child, at things that have no meaning to the child, yet, or necessarily. What meaning they have may be irrelevant to his absorption in looking. When it is said that an artist is like a child, the remark can mean that when an adult has learned to generalize (which is also the technique of science) he will be likely in the process to have lost the ability to distinguish. To distinguish requires that the looker accept reality as it is without the attempt to understand, from which follows the attempt to control. Abstract painting in New York seems more and more to be a kind of naturalism, as European abstract painting was a kind of rationalism. _____’s paintings compel your attentiveness: they bring you back to what art is in itself, before its meaning, before its usefulness.
- a. Motherwell
- b. Still
- c. Rothko
- d. Johns
3. The sheets are rumpled, the covers pushed down, the lighting—from an oil lamp—is muted and golden, pooling over the bedclothes and casting part of the woman’s body in shadow…. Compared with this woman, Manet’s Olympia and even Goya’s naked Maja seem nearly as composed and chaste as the women in American colonial portraits….But there is also the unmistakable sense that, like Courbet, _____ has attempted to paint not merely a visual image but a mystery—specifically, the mystery of sex and the altered state it produces… the reason, to put it crudely, the painting is so hot is that it does something extremely difficult, something that pornography—with its clinically rendered anatomical parts, its live actors or photographic subjects, its yelps and grunts of pretend satisfaction—regularly fails to do. _____’s painting performs the nearly impossible feat of reminding us how sex, or at least its aftermath, not only looks, but feels.
- a. Fischl
- b. Picasso
- c. Bonnard
- d. Freud
4. “I always say it took me about ten years to paint this blob,” says _____, only half in jest. He is speaking about a black form that bulges and undulates its way to the edges of a white canvas. The same blob appears in a 1987 painting by Philip Taaffe, who obscured _____’s composition with a layer of stylized motifs. _____ knows about this kind of strategy in contemporary art—appropriation—and he knows that his status as a modern master of abstraction makes him a target for a new generation of artists who “quote” from their predecessors. But even if it’s in homage, it bothers him. “What I did was take the content out,” he says. “He’s putting it back in. What has he cluttered up my paintings for?”
- a. Serra
- b. Tuttle
- c. Marden
- d. Kelly
5. A number of critics have suggested that not only is there a good deal less to his material-intensive work than meets the eye, but by self-advertisement he has slowed down the whole postmodernist campaign…. Like Callas’s singing, his work is at once harsh and beautifully nuanced. In seeking to encompass a wide expressive range, it is often overstretched, though its urgent timbre remains recognizable. And precisely because he, too, as an artist, is both seriously flawed and grandly ambitious, he has the ability to keep us in suspense from performance to performance. This retrospective, which showed _____ to be, at barely midcareer, both the cranky, charismatic loner he has always been and a better artist than we had been able to see, has left his success—at least until next time—assured.
- a. Schnabel
- b. Warhol
- c. Rauschenberg
- d. Hirst
6. To the credit of busy New York it must be said that its more cultivated element has quickly appreciated the beauty and value of the most remarkable and fascinating “one man” exhibition of pictures ever made in this country…. It is difficult to restrain a possible exuberance of expression, or to qualify one’s admiration in attempting to describe the art of _____. There are those who do not hesitate to place him very close to his early predecessor, the great master Velázquez, and who say that, except in portraiture, he excels his other great predecessor, Goya, but no artist or art lover, be he tonalist, impressionist, realist or romanticist, can fail to be at least amazed by the marvelous vitality and simplicity of the art of _____.
- a. Sorolla
- b. Miró
- c. Picasso
- d. Tí pies
7. Picture after picture, of the twenty odd hung, beckons the eye with promises, only to shut up like a clam when the gaze becomes too inquisitive. Like so many flappers on Broadway they will smile gaily at the stranger so long as he keeps his distance, but the merest attempt at intimacy will freeze their limbs and bring into their eyes the set expressionless vacancy of a too perfectly assumed respectability…. Seeking for a cause for this apparent paradox—extreme color selectivity wedded to an almost entire absence of design, we are forced to a conclusion that runs full counter to the generally accepted view. All the critical literature which has been devoted to _____—and there has been plenty—has started with the assumption that the work of _____ is first, last and all the time autobiographical, a revelation of the thoughts and emotions that run through the mind and body of its maker. It may be that these enter, and for a large part, but to accept them as the whole is to get an altogether false impression of their nature.
- a. Toulouse-Lautrec
- b. Modigliani
- c. O’Keeffe
- d. Hopper
8. … few painters in history actually allowed their theories to dominate their work to such an extent…. One might almost say that he did not touch his brushes before he had made up his mind as to what he wanted, and that his concepts were established before he applied them to his work…. The series of rules to which he adhered during… his life was of such mathematical precision that the slightest infringement would have threatened to destroy the harmony of his paintings. Yet _____ never considered these rules as curbs to his freedom of expression; they were to him the solemn guide toward truth, a challenge rather than a restriction to eye and mind.
- a. Seurat
- b. Mondrian
- c. Newman
- d. Malevich
9. One cannot be satisfied only to look for the sudden, surprising visual beauties; one is in the presence of an hysterical temperament, and must take account of that. There are women who wish that they had these qualities, and there are men who wish that they might fall in love, tragically, with that personality. The paintings are romantic, hypersensitive, sulky, and filled with surface tensions…. The sexual symbology of Miss _____’s work is subconsciously intentional; that is, she has tried to show it and not to show it at the same time…. Miss _____ is making confessions in this show, hoping no one will be listening.
- a. Frankenthaler
- b. O’Keeffe
- c. Mitchell
- d. Kahlo
10. Soutine is obviously a step-child of _____, but it is unwise to press that point because the same can be said of so many men now alive; and the matter amounts to this: _____ is the sublime exponent of individualism expressed with that kind of intensity which translates itself to the paint even before it is out of the tube, so that its physical shape, thickness and surface takes on as much significance as the method of the hand laying it on or the humanity prompting the hand. Simply because painters with individual, lyrical, maladjusted or hysterically earnest, religiously elated or devil-may-care characteristics choose to handle pigment in this manner, the manner cannot always be laid at _____’s doorstep.
- a. Beckmann
- b. Pollock
- c. van Gogh
- d. Kokoschka
11. _____ is a man of extraordinary complexities, a persecuted dreamer desperately defending himself and a skillful organizer with good horse-sense. His innocence is matched by a talent for manipulating events; no matter how bitterly he is attacked, he always comes out on top. He alternates an analytical reserve with a magnetic presence. He is rational and irrational, scholar and mystic. He is an other-worldly ascetic and a superb cook who discusses recipes with a gourmet’s relish. He is beset by death consciousness, yet his mischief outrages the academicians. He evolves apocalyptic “Actions”—and becomes their victim. He is the artist and he is the oeuvre.
- a. Warhol
- b. Picasso
- c. Beuys
- d. Koons
Answers:1. Answer (b) “Matisse—Sculptor? ‘Mazette’!” March 23, 1912, by C. de K.
2. Answer (d) Jasper Johns at Castelli Gallery, January 1958, by Fairfield Porter
3. Answer (c) “What Has This Woman Just Been Doing?” January 2004, by Francine Prose
4. Answer (d) “Ellsworth Kelly: ‘Everything Becomes Abstract,’” December 1992, by Robin Cembalest
5. Answer (a) “Julian Schnabel: A Discrepancy at Every Turn,” February 1988, by Holland Cotter
6. Answer (a) “A Spanish Master’s Works,” February 13, 1909, by James B. Townsend
7. Answer (c) Georgia O’Keeffe at Intimate Gallery, February 13, 1926.
8. Answer (a) “Seurat: The Meaning of the Dots,” April 1949, by John Rewald
9. Answer (a) “9 Shows for Spring: Helen Frankenthaler,” March 1960, by Anne Seelye
10. Answer (c) “Soutine of the Ecole de Paris in His First New York Exhibit,” February 8, 1936, by Ann Hamilton Sayre
11. Answer (c) “How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare,” January 1970, by Ursula Meyer