What a brilliant man!
March 27, 2012 11:35 PM   Subscribe

"Hilton Kramer, whose clear, incisive style and combative temperament made him one of the most influential critics of his era, both at The New York Times, where he was the chief art critic for almost a decade, and at The New Criterion, which he edited from its founding in 1982, died early Tuesday in Harpswell, Me. He was 84."

The New Criterion is gathering the remembrances as they trickle in.
Hilton Kramer was born on March 25, 1928, in Gloucester, Mass. As a boy he gravitated toward the local artists’ colony and spent long hours in Boston’s art museums. After earning a bachelor’s degree in English at Syracuse University in 1950, he studied literature and philosophy at Columbia, the New School for Social Research and Harvard.
"There are reputations in art that soar so high that, if only for a generation or two, they scarcely seem to be reputations in the ordinary sense at all. They acquire instead the status of some eternal verity, and it hardly seems possible that a time might come when the bright light of a renown that is universal in scope will grow dim and even flicker out. The fortunes of art--everything we feel about its permanence and its destiny--seems for the moment so closely bound to the prosperity of these reputations that the very thought of their extinction is unimaginable."
posted by anewnadir (14 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by vhsiv at 1:37 AM on March 28, 2012

posted by Chichibio at 1:58 AM on March 28, 2012

posted by mygothlaundry at 4:11 AM on March 28, 2012

In 1982, Mr. Kramer left The Times to edit The New Criterion, a monthly journal of culture and ideas created to take a contrarian view of multiculturalism, ethnic and gender politics, and other currents coming into prominence in the arts, as well as a neoconservative take on cultural politics generally.

He could be nasty too.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:41 AM on March 28, 2012

posted by HandfulOfDust at 5:46 AM on March 28, 2012

Mr. Kramer died 50 years ago, I suspect, and we are only now finding out about it.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:04 AM on March 28, 2012

> He could be nasty too.

Too? That's how I basically think of him. He did have good taste in what he liked, though; it was what he hated that was the problem.
posted by languagehat at 6:29 AM on March 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

What Languagehat said. I remember reading some of his reviews and essays back in the late 90's when I was a card-carrying member of the vast right wing conspiracy and even then I found his views on the things he didn't like screedish and small minded. He always seemed to hold them up to an ideological purity test that he didn't hold the stuff he liked to.
posted by KingEdRa at 6:55 AM on March 28, 2012


My best shot at being nice, especially given all the nasty things the man has said about artists I know or have met. For example: Morality Tales
posted by R. Mutt at 7:04 AM on March 28, 2012

It seems rather moot to criticize a critic for not being nice.
posted by Jahaza at 7:11 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nobody's criticizing him for not being nice. I personally criticize him for having an utterly closed mind and despising pretty much everything that happened after WWII, especially if it involved anything that could conceivably be associated with the left (which of course = Stalinism).
posted by languagehat at 7:25 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nobody except for the people describing him as "nasty"?
posted by Jahaza at 7:33 AM on March 28, 2012

I don't think it's justifiable in any meaningful sense to say that he "despis[ed] pretty much everything that happened after WWII."

It's probably true in a limited sense, but most of the art that is produced in any period is likely not to be immortal. He'd probably desipise pretty much everything that happened in Paris after the Franco-Prussian War too.

But he didn't reflexively hate everything that happened after WWII, which is easy to tell from even a quick perusal of the archives of his work at the New Critereon. For instance his lauding of the sculptures of David Smith from the 1950s and 60's in this review. This article calls Anselm Kiefer (not even born until 1945) an "artist of extraordinary gifts". His scathing critique of the Met's Wallace Wing praises the 1959 painting "Speedboat's Wake" by Milton Avery. Etc. etc.
posted by Jahaza at 8:02 AM on March 28, 2012

posted by BobbyVan at 8:31 AM on March 28, 2012

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