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critics John Canaday

John Canaday


John Canaday was a conservative art critic and professor who did not care much for modernism, and was especially critical of Abstract Expressionism. As the chief art critic for The New York Times, from 1959 to 1973, Canaday once accused art professors of brainwashing students into favoring Abstract Expressionist art, an act that earned him much disdain from many artists and critics of the time. Although vilified by most of the modern establishment during his years at the Times, Canaday was an honest writer who was always forthcoming about what he did and did not see in art. Despite not being Modern art's greatest fan, he never shied from trying to understand it.

Key Ideas

By the time Canaday was hired as an art critic for the Times in 1958, he generally distrusted the academy of art, which seemed to favor abstraction above all other techniques in Contemporary art. Canaday saw abstraction not as part of the avant-garde, but more of a trend that was "in vogue at the moment."
Canaday had great respect for the artist as working man. He fondly remembered the Depression-era WPA and what it did for many American artists, who were, at long last, viewed as "human beings engaged in a legitimate occupation." Canaday did not view great art as the work of stoic philosophers and intellectuals, but of hard-working people who earned their living with labor of the mind, brush and canvas.


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