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The Tunnel

Michael Fried: A Poem, 6 February 2003

... To be nothing but fire not even the fuel that feeds it wasn’t my father’s style. When the time came for him to die (of a cirrhotic liver caused by poisoned blood flushed through him one winter dawn to fight a bleeding ulcer) he found a stone wall with, at its base, a tunnel just too narrow to admit a man. Undaunted he crawled through hand over hand to the other side ...


John Barrell, 2 April 1981

Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot 
by Michael Fried.
California, 249 pp., £16.50, February 1981, 0 520 03758 8
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... observed, but simply is, independent of the observer. The art of the Salons of the 1750s, argues Michael Fried, is much preoccupied by such images of absorption, a preoccupation which was registered and admired by contemporary critics: but the very fact that it was thus registered made the problem of establishing the reality of the image, by the ...


Paul Grimstad: Flaubert’s ‘Gueuloir’, 23 January 2014

Flaubert’s ‘Gueuloir’: On ‘Madame Bovary’ and ‘Salammbô’ 
by Michael Fried.
Yale, 184 pp., £25, October 2012, 978 0 300 18705 2
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... savage gueulade he told the Goncourt brothers he felt he was going to spit blood. But why then, Michael Fried asks, is Madame Bovary positively teeming with assonances, alliterations and repetitions? How is it that after the acid bath of the gueuloir the novel is ‘shot through with precisely the sorts of phonemic effects Flaubert claimed he wished to ...


Barry Schwabsky: Who is Menzel?, 17 April 2003

Menzel’s Realism: Art and Embodiment in 19th-Century Berlin 
by Michael Fried.
Yale, 313 pp., £35, September 2002, 0 300 09219 9
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... Michael Fried, who is also a poet, has a dense, self-questioning, fervent prose style. Somewhat perversely he has, over the last three decades – that is, since his doctoral dissertation on Manet was printed as a special issue of Artforum in 1969 – put this prose to the service of art-historical scholarship ...

Ravishing Atrocities

Patrick Maynard, 7 January 1988

Realism, Writing, Disfiguration: On Thomas Eakins and Stephen Crane 
by Michael Fried.
Chicago, 215 pp., £23.95, April 1987, 0 226 26210 3
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Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology 
by W.J.T. Mitchell.
Chicago, 226 pp., £7.25, October 1987, 0 226 53229 1
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... themselves, and all these variables may be controlled for effect. There can be art in this, and Michael Fried argues that within Western painting there is a special tradition of realism, stemming at least from Caravaggio (who, he reminds us, painted a Medusa). In such pictures it is not that a shocking effect is due to reality being let in through ...

I want to be her clothes

Kevin Kopelson: Kate Moss, 20 December 2012

Kate: The Kate Moss Book 
by Kate Moss, edited by Fabien Baron, Jess Hallett and Jefferson Hack.
Rizzoli, 368 pp., £50, November 2012, 978 0 8478 3790 8
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... her own character. (She says it’s not, in Kate.) To quote the American (and gay) literary critic Michael Snediker, talking about the photograph of Moss, taken by Richard Avedon, to which he is ‘most attached’: ‘I like that she aestheticises noli me tangere. It’s not that she seems to be in a heroin stupor. It’s that she seems damaged from the ...

Make Something Happen!

Julian Bell: Paint Serious, Paint Big, 2 December 2010

Salvator Rosa: Bandits, Wilderness and Magic 
by Helen Langdon, Xavier Salomon and Caterina Volpi.
Paul Holberton, 240 pp., £40, September 2010, 978 1 907372 01 8
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Painting for Profit: The Economic Lives of 17th-Century Italian Painters 
by Richard Spear and Philip Sohm et al.
Yale, 384 pp., £45, 0 300 15456 9
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Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane 
by Andrew Graham-Dixon.
Allen Lane, 514 pp., £30, July 2010, 978 0 7139 9674 6
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The Moment of Caravaggio 
by Michael Fried.
Princeton, 304 pp., £34.95, 0 691 14701 9
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... strategy has to deliver; while two treatments of Caravaggio, by Andrew Graham-Dixon and by Michael Fried, come at that painter’s place in history from wildly disparate angles. Spear, Sohm and their five coauthors investigate five 17th-century urban art worlds. Those of Florence and Venice are so downbeat they would be the despair of most ...

At Dia:Beacon

Hal Foster: Fetishistic Minimalist, 5 June 2003

... with a Minimalist sensitivity to space – as any of the artists.In 1994 Wright made way for Michael Govan, a protégé of Thomas Krens, the director of the Guggenheim Museum. By this time, Dia had acquired nearly seven hundred works, and to show this collection needed more space than the real-estate market in Manhattan would allow. From a plane above ...

At the Royal Academy

Julian Bell: Manet, 21 February 2013

... with paintings like The Luncheon in mind, we might suppose he was setting aside in quotes. Michael Fried summarised the issue in a resounding formula: Manet’s art represents the last attempt in Western painting to achieve a full equivalent to the great realistic painting of the past … To paint his world with the same fullness of response, the ...


P.N. Furbank, 3 August 1995

Emulation: Making Artists for Revolutionary France 
by Thomas Crow.
Yale, 288 pp., £29.95, January 1995, 0 300 06093 9
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... right foot being too near the female alms-giver’s heel – though these are features for which Michael Fried has found an unexpected justification, as being part of a scheme to unsettle the conventional relationship of viewer to canvas. According to Crow, at all events, David’s decision was to ‘go for the bold stroke’ and to push forward ...


Hal Foster: Félix Fénéon, 3 December 2020

... the frame, these women also ‘externalise the viewer’, which heightens our sense of autonomy. (Michael Fried would call this ‘absorption’, while Freud might see it as voyeurism.) A related argument can be made about Seurat. In The Models (1886-88), he depicts three nudes in his studio with La Grande Jatte behind them, one on the floor with her ...

The Special Motion of a Hand

T.J. Clark: Courbet and Poussin at the Met, 24 April 2008

... reckoned with. The writer who has entered most deeply into this moment of Courbet’s imagining is Michael Fried. The material world in Courbet, Fried persuades us, is not to be thought of as something separate from the body that encounters it. Painting consists in finding a way of intimating the deep continuity between ...

English Words and French Authors

John Sturrock, 8 February 1990

A New History of French Literature 
edited by Denis Hollier.
Harvard, 1280 pp., £39.95, October 1989, 0 674 61565 4
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... on the cultural politics of André Malraux, and best of all, a brilliantly revealing chapter by Michael Fried on the spectator-centred aesthetics of Diderot in his Salons. The association of words with music is traced from the jongleurs in the 11th century through its successive manifestations as an element of courtly spectacle to interesting chapters ...

Un Dret Egal

David A. Bell: Political Sentiment, 15 November 2007

Inventing Human Rights: A History 
by Lynn Hunt.
Norton, 272 pp., £15.99, April 2007, 978 0 393 06095 9
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... just happened to be watching, as if an invisible wall stood at the front of the stage. And, as Michael Fried has argued, painters in the same period began to depict characters deeply absorbed in their own activities, no more conscious of the spectator’s gaze than Pamela seemed to the readers of her letters. So here, too, the creators of art strove ...

Balls and Strikes

Charles Reeve: Clement Greenberg, 5 April 2007

Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg 
by Alice Goldfarb Marquis.
Lund Humphries, 321 pp., £25, April 2006, 0 85331 940 5
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... which challenges the assumption, shared by Greenberg, Clark, and Greenberg’s one-time protégé Michael Fried, that modern art is valuable as a defence and expression of the imagination; and Caroline Jones’s Eyesight Alone, in which she reads Greenberg against himself to show that his idea of a purely visual art hooks into modernity’s increasingly ...

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