August 25, 2011

HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN A CONTINENTAL EUROPEAN:

How a Great American Artist Vanished From the Critical Scope (TERRY TEACHOUT, 8/04/11, WSJ)

Sooner or later, everyone who writes about John Marin gets around to mentioning the 1948 Look magazine poll of 68 critics, curators and museum directors who, when asked to name America's greatest living painters, put him at the top of the list. Five years later, the headline of Mr. Marin's New York Times obituary described him as "Artist Considered by Many as 'America's No. 1 Master.' " No less a highbrow than the art critic Clement Greenberg concurred, predicting that Mr. Marin and Jackson Pollock would "compete for recognition as the greatest American painter of the 20th century."

So why does Mr. Marin so often get the "John Who?" treatment? For it's better than even money that unless you happen to be a connoisseur of American modernism or an art-history major, his name is unknown to you. It's been 21 years since a major U.S. museum last put together a full-scale retrospective of his work. New York's Museum of Modern Art owns 25 Marins--but not a single one of them is currently on view.


His work is just as well known as any other modernist in America. All we know of Pollack is the dismissive nickname, Jack the Dripper. He's a punchline. Mr. Marin just wasn't ludicrous enough to stick in memory.


Posted by at August 25, 2011 5:42 AM
  

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