John Golding (1929–2012) was a British painter and art historian. He taught at the Courtauld Institute and the Royal College of Art. Among his many books was Cubism: A History and an Analysis, which refuted the notion that Cubism represented a break with the realist tradition. Golding also curated exhibitions on both sides of the Atlantic, including Picasso: Painter/Sculpter and Matisse Picasso.

The Greatest French Artist of His Century

Jean-Antoine Watteau: Studies of a Standing Woman and a Seated Boy Holding a Key
The recent and remarkable exhibition “Watteau: The Drawings” was housed in the Sackler Wing, completed in 1991 to expand the exhibition space of London’s Royal Academy of Art. The galleries suited Jean-Antoine Watteau’s drawings to perfection. The walls were painted a pale French gray and each drawing was given space …

The Born Rebel Artist

In 1854 Gustave Courbet sent his patron and friend the rich philanthropist Alfred Bruyas a self-portrait, accompanying it with a letter: It is the portrait of a fanatic, an ascetic. It is the portrait of a man who, disillusioned by the nonsense that made up his education, seeks to live …

In Braque’s Studio

After Henri Matisse’s death in 1954, Georges Braque came to be recognized generally as the greatest living French painter. Picasso as a Spaniard was hors concours; and indeed in a very real way this is what he had been since he had ridden so quickly to fame in the first …

The Artist in Search of Himself

The publication of an ambitious, hitherto unknown manuscript by one of the greatest painters of his age can only be a cause for celebration, although in the case of Mark Rothko’s The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art the celebration can only be muted, and qualified. As early as 1936 Milton …

Always in Exile

Arshile Gorky became a legend during his lifetime. No less a figure than André Breton had declared him to be “the most important painter in American history.” Clement Greenberg, the most influential American art critic of his age, though originally grudging in his praise, in 1948, the year of Gorky’s …

Divide and Conquer

Although Barnett Newman, through his writings, did as much as any other single figure to create the climate in which Abstract Expressionism was to be born and subsequently to flourish, he was the least expressionistic of the Abstract Expressionists. Alfred Barr was until the last moment doubtful about including him …

Renoir the Irregular

Think of Impressionism and the two names most likely to come first to mind are those of Monet and Renoir. And of all the Impressionist painters Renoir is the most seductive. He painted many of Impressionism’s most popular and memorable canvases. To name only three: The Theater Box (La Loge) …

Simply Himself

Léger’s true originality lay in his instinctive conviction that he could fashion any aesthetic tendency he encountered to suit the ongoing demands of his own art. In this he was on the whole astonishingly successful. He was born in rural Normandy in 1881 (the same year as Picasso). His earliest …

Under Cézanne’s Spell

Paul Cézanne, born in 1839, was the only artist of his age to span several generations in order to become, so to speak, an honorary twentieth-century painter. The Fauve painters, who launched the first visual movement of the century, were inspired by Cézanne and came increasingly under his spell. The …

Mysteries of Mondrian

Mondrian died in New York, the city where he had been happiest, on the first of February 1944. A memorial meeting held two days later was attended by many of the most distinguished figures in the American art world and by virtually every single one of the famous European expatriate …

Supreme Outsider

The case of Whistler is an odd one. He became one of the most influential artists of his age, and his influence spread insidiously, like a stain, over generations of artists. His early work was admired by such giants as Courbet, Manet, and Degas; yet his total output of paintings …

Sophisticated Peasant

The centenary of Joan Miró’s birth is being celebrated in high style. A “year of homage” has been declared by the Generalitat of Catalonia, and Barcelona is ablaze with posters and banners, thus keeping up some of the euphoria induced by last year’s Olympics. (The beautiful and undervalued Catalan composer …

Living Still Life

When Gertrude Stein wrote that “painting in the nineteenth century was done only in France by Frenchmen, apart from that painting did not exist, in the twentieth century it was done in France but by Spaniards,” she was paying tribute to both Picasso and Juan Gris. She appears to have …

Live Menu

Still life as we now accept it emerged as a subject in its own right in Flanders and Holland in the sixteenth century; the English phrase derives from the Dutch stilleven. Still life never appealed to English patrons, who preferred pictures of their dogs and horses. The French, after toying …

Supreme Suprematist

Although Kazimir Malevich became a legend in Russia during his lifetime and is considered by many to be the greatest Russian painter of the century, he is much less well known than his two contemporaries and peers in the creation of abstract art, Kandinsky and Mondrian. When in 1919–1920 the …

Two Who Made a Revolution

The exhibition entitled “Picasso and Braque: Pioneering Cubism,” mounted last September at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and currently on view in a very modified form at the Kunstmuseum in Basel (and with a somewhat modified title: “Picasso und Braque: Die Geburt des Kubismus”) demonstrated yet again the Museum …

The Triumph of Picasso

When the Museum of Modern Art mounted its huge Picasso exhibition in New York in 1980, it obtained the full support of the Picasso museums in Paris and Barcelona on condition that the Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), in a sense the cornerstone of New York’s collection, might be allowed to cross …

White Magic

In many respects Brancusi is the art historian’s dream. He and Picasso, in very different ways, are the two artists who did most to change the face of sculpture in the first half of this century—white magic, black magic, as a critic once observed. Many see him as the greatest …

The Futurist Past

It is ironic that the grandest exhibition of Futurism ever to be mounted has opened in Venice, for the Futurists held Venice in particular contempt. On the evening of July 8, 1910, Marinetti, the movement’s commander in chief, together with a group of Futurist painters, placed themselves in a strategic …

Picasso & Poetry

Although Picasso enjoyed his excursions into the theater, and in particular his collaborations with the Diaghilev ballet, for the most part he disliked working to order and shunned commissions of all kinds. He did, nevertheless, illustrate some fifty books and was peripherally involved in the production of twice as many …

The Golden Age

Virtually all of Matisse’s important early patrons and collectors were foreigners: Americans, Russians, Scandinavians, Germans. It was not until 1922, when Matisse was in his fifties, that the French government purchased a work for the Musée du Luxembourg, choosing the somewhat conventional Odalisque with Red Trousers. But Matisse had still …

The Eyes Have It

Adrian Stokes died on December 15, 1972. The headline of the first obituary announced: “The Modern Ruskin Dies.” Time may well show that as a writer on the visual arts Stokes was of comparable importance; but it is revealing of the cloak of privacy and of reticence with which he …