Andrew Forge writes about the painter Frank Auerbach and the writer Robert Hughes, and about works of art in a dark age

  • Nothing if not critical by Robert Hughes
    Collins Harvill, 429 pp, £16.00, November 1990, ISBN 0 00 272075 2
  • Frank Auerbach by Robert Hughes
    Thames and Hudson, 240 pp, £25.00, September 1990, ISBN 0 500 09211 7
  • Figure and Abstraction in Contemporary Painting by Ronald Paulson
    Rutgers, 283 pp, $44.95, November 1990, ISBN 0 8135 1604 8

The New York art scene in the Eighties presented spectacle of almost unrelieved decadence, in which the ‘virtues’ of the Reagan era ruled. In this desert of greed, vanity and corruption one could always rely on the tonic of Robert Hughes pieces in Time and the New York Review of Books, now collected. He lays about him splendidly, not sparing any link in the chain that tethers artists to their time, from the studio to the dealers and their pimps, and to the final rings in the wall, the museums He writes with a marvellous fluency and variety of voice – Sancho Panza of the outback, baggy-eyed fashion freak who has seen absolutely everything, measured historian, joker, unruffled lover of painting. If only there were more like him, one thinks sentimentally. But how could there be?

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