Francis Haskell (1928-2000) was an English art historian. His works include Patrons and Painters: Art and Society in Baroque Italyand History and its Images: Art and the Interpretation of the Past. Haskell taught at Oxford.

Mysterious Masterpieces

An excellent exhibition of paintings by Lorenzo Lotto left Washington last March and, after traveling to Bergamo, went to the Grand Palais in Paris, where it was finely installed. Meanwhile an equally fine exhibition, similar in its ideal size of about fifty paintings, of works by Dosso Dossi, which began …

The Art of the Possible

The exhibitions of paintings by Pierre Prud’hon and of sculptures by Augustin Pajou, which opened at more or less the same time in Paris and are now moving to New York, cannot have been planned as a pair, but in an extraordinary way each one is enhanced by the other, …

In Love with Light

When in 1770 the Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo died, very suddenly, in Madrid (to which he had been summoned to fresco the royal palace), he was already aged seventy-four, and he must certainly have realized that he had been, for at least a generation or so, the most admired …

Ah! Sweet History of Life

In his preface to his extremely fine study The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance, John Hale hopes it will not be thought presumptuous that his title adapts that of a book of truly seminal importance, Jacob Burckhardt’s The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy of 1860—a book that “I …

Poussin’s Season

The fourth centenary of the birth of Nicolas Poussin has been celebrated by a series of major, and also minor but important, exhibitions in Paris (a city that he abandoned at the earliest possible opportunity) and in London (where he had never been). Meanwhile in Rome (where he spent almost …

Art & the Apocalypse

Talk of the Apocalypse was heard throughout Europe in the decades around 1900,[^1] but it did not always betoken vengeful doom. “Today,” wrote Franz Marc in January 1912 in his subscription prospectus for the almanac of the Blaue Reiter, art is moving in a direction of which our fathers would …

Only Collect

Books and articles about collectors and collecting have now been popular for nearly a century and a half—the vogue seems to have started during the second Empire and to have gathered pace over the next few decades—but, with only a few exceptions, their contribution to history, and even to art …

Titian and the Perils of International Exhibition

A tough dilemma tends to condition the choice of pictures shown at the more ambitious international exhibitions of Old Masters: the institutions that lend the paintings (for the paintings involved now belong almost exclusively to institutions) feel inclined to support such ventures only if they are intended to be “of …

Artemisia’s Revenge?

Artemisia Gentileschi and Pietro Testa were very gifted artists who worked in Italy during the first half of the seventeenth century. Both suffered great misfortune: Artemisia Gentileschi was almost certainly raped (a residue of doubt remains) by a fellow painter, Agostino Tassi, who then failed to marry her, and she …

Thanks for the Memory

The inscription on a fine statuette in one of the Egyptian rooms in the Metropolitan Museum tells us that it had been set up by Ahmose in honor of his father, Harnofer the Prophet of Amun in Karnak, “that his name may live.” That hope has not been quite forlorn, …

The Artist and the Museum

We have, during the last twenty or thirty years, spent so much time discussing what we think of the artists of the nineteenth century (Were the Impressionists as good as we once believed and were the pompiers as bad? Was Paris as important as used to be claimed and Düsseldorf …

What’s in a Portrait?

It was probably in the second half of 1860 that Degas, who was then aged twenty-six, completed in Paris his large portrait group of the Bellelli family (Louvre)—the largest such group, indeed one of the two largest pictures, he ever painted. But despite many beautiful preliminary drawings and many references …

The Voyage of Watteau

There are times when one wishes that the great art historians and theorists of the past who wrote biographies of their contemporaries had been more like the art historians of today…. Put like that the wish appalls by its condescension and Philistinism. Can one really imagine the intelligence and imagination …

Enemies of Modern Art

Author’s Note: The following was given as the James lecture at New York University on April 15. The nature of the occasion will perhaps explain the tone of provocative assurance used to deal with complicated and subtle issues which I hope to explore more fully elsewhere. I want to …

Secrets of Caravaggio

“There is no secret of the psyche that Caravaggio cannot find out,” writes Professor Freedberg of the artist’s Death of the Virgin, which now hangs in the Louvre, disfigured by dark varnish. Although he elaborates on his meaning, this is the most surprising sentence in his book—indeed, the most surprising …

Famous but Unknown

The sculpture commissioned by Louis XIV for the grounds of his palaces at Versailles and Marly constitutes perhaps the finest, the most imaginative, and the most attractive of the artistic achievements of that king’s long reign. It is today certainly the most neglected. Although much has survived in one form …

Out of the Picture

How much can we learn about the art of the past by reading about the attitudes of contemporaries to it? Though not much stressed, this is the first and among the most significant of the questions raised by Michael Fried’s book. Absorption and Theatricality is ostensibly devoted to a short …

Re-inventing the Eighteenth Century

To most lovers of art, and writers of textbooks, the main achievements of eighteenth-century painting can be summed up in a few names and a few countries—for example, Watteau, Boucher, Chardin, Fragonard, and Greuze in France; Tiepolo, Longhi, Canaletto, and Guardi in Venice; Hogarth, Gainsborough, and Reynolds in England. Works …

Yesterday’s Today Show

Around the Arts, Sciences, and Professions, the Church, the Law, Medicine—those dignified (and suitably capitalized) achievements by which civilizations are judged and by which man seeks to dominate the chaos threatening to engulf him—there has always spilled out a series of gaudy, yet ill-defined subcultures which have been little studied …

The Ideal Director

At the end of his very fully documented biography of Sir Charles Eastlake, “usually considered to have been the most distinguished director of the [London] National Gallery to date,” David Robertson sums up certain aspects of his career with a series of negatives and cautious qualifications: He would never have …

The Uses and Abuses of Art History

“History which ignores art or literature is jejune history, just as a society without art or literature is a jejune society, and, conversely, art and literature which are studied in detachment from history are only half understood.” This ringing declaration of faith (to which I subscribe in full) is to …

The Not-So-Innocent Eye

In a famous outburst Michelangelo is supposed to have told the Portuguese painter Francisco de Holanda that “they paint in Flanders only to deceive the external eye, things that gladden you and of which you cannot speak ill. Their painting is of stuffs, bricks and mortar, the grass of the …

Perplexing Painters

Proud, cultivated, and hedonistic, El Greco was throughout his lifetime rightly considered to be a great and highly successful artist. We first hear of him in 1570, just arrived in Rome from Venice at the age of twenty-nine, as being “rarely gifted in painting. And among other things he has …

The English Invade Paris

Four years ago the museums of Detroit and Philadelphia sponsored an exhibition of “Romantic Art in Britain, 1760-1860.” I did not see it, but to judge from the catalogue,[^*] itself an outstanding contribution to our knowledge of the subject, the exhibition was as impressive as it was imaginative and pioneering, …

Rubens and Marie

The twenty-four pictures devoted to scenes from the life of Marie de’ Medici, which Rubens painted for the Palais du Luxembourg between 1622 and 1625 and which are soon to be properly reassembled in the Louvre, are—like the earlier frescoes by Raphael and Michelangelo in the Vatican—not only great works …

The Raw & The Cooked

As the nineteenth century drew to a close two restless and disappointed artists left Paris to investigate strange societies which had survived from a distant past, and which were to die out in a few years. John Singer Sargent began his regular visits to England in 1886 and before long …

Go for Baroque

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press has published a translation of Paolo Portoghesi’s Roma Barocca under the title Roma Barocca. This will be considered, according to taste, either pretentious or unenterprising: but, in fact, even the most persevering English or American reader may, however deficient his knowledge of Italian, come …

From Courbet to Che

Professor Egbert’s enormously long book refers to the opinions on art of almost every left-wing writer (in the loosest sense of the term) in Western Europe from Saint-Simon and Fourier to Mr. John Berger. Though in his Preface he is careful to disassociate himself from most of these opinions, he …

Explaining Titian’s Egg Seller

“Venice in the sixteenth century was not less celebrated for refined culture than Rome or Florence. In Venice—as in Tuscany—painting came to perfection after the heroic period; and the arts have been truly described as the gilded bark which covered the cankered trunk of a luxuriant tree.” The Life and …

The Beholder’s Eye

William Ivins, Jr. was curator of prints at the Metropolitan Museum from 1916 until 1946. During that time he built up the remarkable collections that can be seen there today, and he wrote a large number of prefaces to exhibition catalogues, as well as other, occasional pieces, which were later …