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Under the Loincloth

Frank Kermode, 3 April 1997

The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion 
by Leo Steinberg.
Chicago, 417 pp., £23.95, January 1997, 0 226 77187 3
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... reviewers there were some who were embarrassed or shocked and some who were sceptical. The author, Leo Steinberg, kept watch on them and has now greatly expanded his original report. He is agreeably discursive and writes informatively and exuberantly about all manner of marginal topics, but his revision has two main purposes: to multiply the visual ...

Pop Eye

Hal Foster: Handmade Readymades, 22 August 2002

Image Duplicator: Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art 
by Michael Lobel.
Yale, 196 pp., £35, March 2002, 0 300 08762 4
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... trick with his paintings of flags, targets and numbers in the mid to late 1950s; as the critic Leo Steinberg pointed out, these works met Greenberg’s criteria for Modernist painting – as well as being flat, it should be self-contained, objective, immediate – but by means that Greenberg found utterly alien to such painting: the kitschy images and ...

Ostentatio Genitalium

Charles Hope, 15 November 1984

The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion 
by Leo Steinberg.
Faber, 222 pp., £25, September 1984, 0 571 13392 4
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... The startling claim of Leo Steinberg’s new book is that over the past four centuries the real meaning of much of the religious art of the Renaissance has been lost. He argues that in representations of Christ, both as an infant and as an adult, the genitals had a particular theological significance to which we are now oblivious because of the modern world’s ‘massive historic retreat from the mythical grounds of Christianity ...

Flattening Space

Rosalind Krauss: Parsing Picasso, 1 April 2004

Picasso and the Invention of Cubism 
by Pepe Karmel.
Yale, 233 pp., £40, October 2003, 0 300 09436 1
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... it became routine to parse Picasso’s work from this period as a march towards flatness. Leo Steinberg was the first to challenge this in his 1972 essay ‘The Philosophical Brothel’, a painstaking reading of Picasso’s earliest major painting, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), based on the more than fifty preparatory drawings for the ...


Frank Kermode, 1 March 1984

The Paper Men 
by William Golding.
Faber, 191 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 571 13206 5
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William Golding: A Critical Study 
by Mark Kinkead-Weekes and Ian Gregor.
Faber, 291 pp., £3.50, February 1984, 0 571 13259 6
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... 20th-century painting, for the older kind of dialogue with tradition broke down; the criticism of Leo Steinberg, so delicate in its way of relating a work to its context in the oeuvre, so subtle about the now very complex relation to tradition, is a model of the right sort of response. But in writing about fiction we experience some vulgar inhibition ...


Hal Foster: Bruce Nauman, 20 December 2018

... an interview in 1984, ‘there’s a kind of restraint and morality in Johns’ that he admired. Leo Steinberg once described this posture as one of ‘sufferance’ before the world, which appeared to press on Johns’s passive art almost directly. Nauman transformed this sufferance into resistance: ‘doing things you don’t particularly want to do ...

Which red is the real red?

Hal Foster, 2 December 2021

Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror 
Whitney Museum of American Art/Philadelphia Museum of Art, until 13 February 2022Show More
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... about postwar art.*Johns made an exceptional entrance in early 1958: his first show at the new Leo Castelli Gallery nearly sold out, with three paintings immediately purchased by MoMA, and one piece appearing on the cover of ARTnews. Then 27, he had sized up the New York art world precisely, dominated as it then was by the formalist model of ‘modernist ...

At Tate Modern

Hal Foster: Robert Rauschenberg, 1 December 2016

... of the image. In this way it presaged the reorientation of the picture plane that the critic Leo Steinberg declared, 15 years later, to be ‘expressive of the most radical shift in the subject matter of art, the shift from nature to culture’ – a move towards a postmodernist conception of the image that is credited to Rauschenberg above all. If ...

Big Daddy

Linda Nochlin, 30 October 1997

American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America 
by Robert Hughes.
Harvill, 635 pp., £35, October 1997, 9781860463723
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... Silvers? Or, in the case of the inventiveness of Johns’s work, previous investigations by Leo Steinberg, Max Kozloff or Fred Orton? From the vantage-point of a card-carrying feminist, Hughes’s procedure raises the spectre of Big Daddy, most prominently in the less nuanced realm of the TV series, where that tough but sensitive, intelligent but ...

Not very good at drawing

Nicholas Penny: Titian, 6 June 2013

Titian: His Life 
by Sheila Hale.
Harper, 832 pp., £30, July 2012, 978 0 00 717582 6
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... has been replaced by less physical forms of homage. (Had the convention survived, the late Leo Steinberg might have been less successful in persuading so many of his fellow scholars that the eldest of the magi, who kneels to kiss Christ’s foot in Renaissance paintings, is actually trying to examine Christ’s genitalia.) Hale often provides more ...

Picasso and Cubism

Gabriel Josipovici, 16 July 1981

Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective 
edited by William Rubin.
Thames and Hudson, 464 pp., £10.95, July 1980, 0 500 23310 1
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Picasso: His Life and Work 
by Roland Penrose.
Granada, 517 pp., £9.99, May 1981, 0 7139 1420 3
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Portrait of Picasso 
by Roland Penrose.
Thames and Hudson, 128 pp., £3.95, June 1981, 0 500 27226 3
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Viva Picasso: A Centennial Celebration, 1881-1981 
by Donald Duncan.
Allen Lane, 152 pp., £12.95, May 1981, 0 7139 1420 3
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Picasso: The Cubist Years, 1907-1916 
by Pierre Daix and Joan Rosselet.
Thames and Hudson, 376 pp., £60, October 1979, 9780500091340
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Picasso’s Guernica: The Labyrinth of Vision 
by Frank Russell.
Thames and Hudson, 334 pp., £12.50, April 1980, 0 500 23298 9
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... is that it confuses the picture with the objects depicted in the picture, a point well made by Leo Steinberg in an essay – published in 1972 in his book Other Criteria – which should finally have put paid to such notions. Cubism sought neither a three-dimensional nor a ‘scientific’ grasp of depicted form. Whatever objects or portions of ...

The Vanishing Brothel

Linda Nochlin, 6 March 1997

A Life of Picasso. Vol. II: 1907-1917 
by John Richardson and Marilyn McCully.
Cape, 500 pp., £30, November 1996, 0 224 03120 1
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Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 398 pp., £25, November 1996, 0 316 88173 2
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Picasso and the Spanish Tradition 
edited by Jonathan Brown.
Yale, 208 pp., £30, November 1996, 0 300 06475 6
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... the course of a single chapter, to account for the complex arguments advanced by such scholars as Leo Steinberg, William Rubin, Anna Chave and many others. The biographer of an artist will, inevitably, like to trace the development of a work, from early drawings to more finished sketches and to various versions of the final painting. To examine the ...

Preposterous Timing

Hal Foster: Medieval Modern Art, 8 November 2012

Medieval Modern: Art out of Time 
by Alexander Nagel.
Thames and Hudson, 312 pp., £29.95, November 2012, 978 0 500 23897 4
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Depositions: Scenes from the Late Medieval Church and the Modern Museum 
by Amy Knight Powell.
Zone, 369 pp., £24.95, May 2012, 978 1 935408 20 8
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... moved easily between abstract painting and Romanesque sculpture; and after the Second World War, Leo Steinberg wrote with equal insight on 20th-century innovators like Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, and Old Masters like Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Velázquez. Yet this traffic is busier than ever before, according to Nagel, with art ...

Bounce off a snap

Hal Foster: Yve-Alain Bois’s Reflections, 30 March 2023

An Oblique Autobiography 
by Yve-Alain Bois, edited by Jordan Kantor.
No Place, 375 pp., £15.99, December 2022, 978 1 949484 08 3
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... in the 1960s. Bois wasn’t the only one objecting to this model of modernism. By the late 1960s, Leo Steinberg had proposed ‘other criteria’ to the ones marshalled by Greenberg, and by the early 1970s Rosalind Krauss had become a vocal apostate from his formalism. Bois embraced both; indeed Krauss counts as his third great intellectual encounter ...

I’m an intelligence

Joanna Biggs: Sylvia Plath at 86, 20 December 2018

The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. I: 1940-56 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1388 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 0 571 32899 4
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The Letters of Sylvia Plath, Vol. II: 1956-63 
edited by Peter Steinberg and Karen Kukil.
Faber, 1025 pp., £35, September 2018, 978 0 571 33920 4
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... He first drew her horoscope four and a half months into the marriage. Sylvia had ‘Mars in 24 of Leo, and the last degree of Aquarius rising, with Saturn in 29 of Capricorn, on the cusp of the 12th, which is suicidal – especially opposite Mars in the 6th. All Correct.’ The Hugheses also liked to commune with spirits using a Ouija board (they mostly asked ...

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