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Modernist Painting

Updated on January 13, 2014

I found the reading “Modernist Painting” to be very descriptive and well written in its descriptions of modern art.

What is your favorite part of the modernist movement?

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An Agreement

In the first paragraphs, I completely agree with how the author described modernism as more than “literature and pictures”.

Modernism is a movement across all things in life, which is a theme that Greenberg picked up on and used throughout his paper. He also noted the self-criticism found in modernism and compared it to the logic of philosophers like Kant.


A Critique

Later on in the essay, I spotted something fascinating about Greenberg’s criticism to religion. It makes me wonder if he is nonreligious, or just has doubt in religion because the “facts” in religion cannot justify themselves. While I agree that religion is faith based and not fact based, it has not been “assimilated as pure entertainment” like he put it.

There are billions of religious people in the world who use religion as much, much more than “pure entertainment”. They revolve their life around it.

What Makes Modernism Unique?

Greenberg continues on about how modernist painting has not abandoned the representation of recognizable objects in principle, it has abandoned the representation of the kind of space that recognizable objects can inhabit. I wholeheartedly agree with this statement as in looking at modernist pieces, this is the best description I have seen so far.

Modernism does not use familiar shapes to mold familiar things; it uses unfamiliar shapes to mold familiar things; this is what gives modernism its uniqueness.


Small Criticism #2

One of the final paragraphs mentions that the past artists had irrelevant reasons for appreciating the masters of art, which seems like a bold statement in my opinion. They appear to appreciate their masters’ art in the same way that new modernist painters appreciate the modernist masters. I don’t see how modernism had shown how the past gave wrong reasons for appreciating their masters.

A Small Criticism

Continuing on with that thought, Greenberg defends himself as if he were being attacked when he had to clarify that modernism was not a “break with the past”. He said it as if that’s what people believed it to be, rather than what he knew it was. Greenberg says it may have been “devolution, an unraveling, of tradition” but more so “further evolution” of a style that had been around for so long.

I agree with this statement, but I can see how people would believe it to be a break with the past because in a way, it was exactly that. In order for this movement to be classified as something other than the past, it had to at one point break away from it.


Overall this piece was extremely well written, but highly opinionated. While Greenberg had facts for a majority of things, he sometimes stretched out his opinions and wrote them as facts, leading the audience to believe things that I, personally, am skeptical about.


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