Robert Hughes (1938–2012) was an art critic and television writer. In the award-winning documentary series, The Shock of The New, Hughes recounted the development of modern art since the Impressionists; in The Fatal Shore, he explored the history of his native Australia. Hughes’s memoir, Things I Didn’t Know, was published in 2006.


Master Builders

Makers of Modern Architecture

by Martin Filler
Competent critics of architecture are not thick on the ground, and first-rate ones even rarer than first-rate writers of any kind. The world, or perhaps one should say the tiny globe, or better yet the ping-pong ball, of architectural criticism is close and restricted, and once you have subtracted the …

The God of Realism

He came from the lower middle class of Holland. His father, Harmen Gerritszoon van Rijn (circa 1568– 1630), owned a half-share in a flour mill in Leiden, and his mother, Cornelia van Zuytbrouk (1568–1640), was a baker’s daughter. He was the second-youngest of ten children, and although big families were …

Why Watch It, Anyway?

TV favors a mentality in which certain things no longer matter particularly: skills like the ability to enjoy a complex argument, for instance, or to perceive nuances, or to keep in mind large amounts of significant information, or to remember today what someone said last month, or to consider strong and carefully argued opinions in defiance of what is conventionally called “balance.” Its content lurches between violence of action, emotional hyperbole, and blandness of opinion. And it never, ever stops.

The Medium Inquisitor

Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 1: Perceptions and Judgments, 1939-1944 (1986)

edited by John O'Brian

Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, Vol. 2: Arrogant Purpose, 1945–1949 (1986)

edited by John O'Brian
A phrase that has long echoed in discussions of American art was “as Clem Greenberg said,…” but the difficulty, until now, has been to know what that was. Clement Greenberg, for a slew of reasons, was the most influential art critic in American history. (He is still alive at eighty-four, …

Masterpiece Theater

Making the Mummies Dance: Inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art

by Thomas Hoving
No other museum director in American history has had as much written about him as Thomas P.F. Hoving, who ran the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for ten years (1967–1977). The striking thing is how much of it he has written himself. Memoirs by American museum men are …

Art, Morals, and Politics

I mean to ramble over matters of art and morality, censorship, politics, and public institutions. And to make things worse I am going to start with an event which is certainly emblematic, but which you may have heard altogether too much about already—namely, the scandal over Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs a …

The Art of Frank Auerbach

Frank Auerbach is one of the most admired artists working in England today. Perhaps if his career says anything about “the art world,” it confirms its irrelevance to an artist’s growth. Auerbach entered a London art school forty years ago, as a teen-ager. Since then he has done nothing but …


My Friend Robert Rauschenberg

Robert Rauschenberg: Retroactive I, 1963

Rauschenberg’s references to other media aren’t just tricks. They’re an integral part of the way he connects the language of his images to that of a wider world. Around 1962, Rauschenberg began to use not things but the images of things. By reusing silk-screened images from one painting to the next, it let him use repetition and counterpoint across a series of works in a way that wasn’t possible, or not easily possible, if he had been using things themselves. In doing this, he was adapting to the great central fact of American communication, its takeover by the imagery of television.