Cover image for Farewell to an idea : episodes from a history of modernism
Farewell to an idea : episodes from a history of modernism
Clark, T. J. (Timothy J.), 1943-
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
vii, 451 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N6490 .C58 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

On Order



This work presents T.J. Clark's perspective on the history of modern art. It asks whether modernism and socialism depended on each other for their vitality, and argues that modernism was an extreme answer to an extreme condition - summed up by Max Weber as the disenchantment of the world.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

No two social or aesthetic movements have been as agonizingly debated and lamented as Modernism and Socialism. Both arose in the wake of the French Revolution, and both were deemed untenable by the late 1980s. In this career-defining work, a collection of seven ruminative essays on the "co-dependency" of these concepts, eminent art historian Clark offers not so much a summation as an archeology, working through "limit cases" in the long and tortured relationship of art and politics, from David's shrewd positioning of his portrait of Citizen Marat within the fervor of the French Revolution to the perceived "anarchism" of Pissarro's laboring field women and the social meanings of Jackson Pollock's post-War drip paintings (Clark reads them in two intriguing contexts: first, as an expression of "lordly," aristocratic attitude, dismissing content in favor of form; and secondly, in terms of their use as backdrops for a 1950 Vogue magazine photo shoot). He writes about politics and art without cynicism, speaking often in the direct, if melancholy, voice of one who wants something to have been, so that it might still be. Clark's is a reclamation project: he seeks to return agency to the artists and paintings that gave face to modernity, and to steer us, as readers and interpreters, away from facile historicism on the one hand, and formalism on the other. The essays in this volume are always historically nuanced, aglow with Clark's deep learning and masterful prose; they will doubtlessly elicit much praise and be the subject of much debate. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This synthesis of three decades of Clark's (modern art, Univ. of California, Berkeley) thinking and writing about modern art is not a simple book. It raises basic questions on the vitality and viability of modernism and its relation to other intellectual, political, and social developments of the 20th century. Modernism's duality, its inward reflecting and outward reaching, is echoed in Clark's approach, which treats both a broad historic view and specific works of art in relation to the material world. The reader is exposed to philosophical rumination, critical detail, and historic perspective: from David at work during the Terror of the late 18th century to C‚zanne painting at the time Freudian theory was evolving to Pollock's view of an abstract form reaching outward limits. A difficult, thought-provoking work that requires almost as much effort on the part of the reader as that of the author but is well worth the effort. For all academic art collections.ÄPaula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Without question, this is one of the more intriguing books on art history to be published this decade. Art historian Clark incorporates social and economic issues influencing artists in his running narrative on modernism. Written in the first person, Farewell to an Idea provides insightful commentary on such movements as Cubism and Soviet art. Indeed, the chapter discussing the work of Kasimir Malevich and his collectivist comrade El Lissitzky is particularly enlightening, while the work selected to illustrate the chapter is a beautiful reminder of the importance of metaphor in art. The subsequent essay on Jackson Pollock is as complex and intertwined as the drips and pours of the artist himself. This book, by an author who clearly loves painting, is as enjoyable to read as one imagines it was to write. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. J. Mendenhall; California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo