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critics Leo Steinberg

Leo Steinberg


Leo Steinberg is one the 20th century's foremost historians and scholars on the works of Michelangelo, Leonardo and other Italian Renaissance artists. Throughout his career, Steinberg has paid particularly close attention to the depiction of Christ in art, and in the process caused much controversy and debate. In addition to his scholarly work of Renaissance art, Steinberg is also a significant authority on 20th-century modern art, including the paintings and sculptures of Picasso, Jasper Johns's Flag series, and Willem de Kooning's Woman series. His scholarly work has consistently placed art and artists in a historical context, yet he is known for his less than formal approach to criticism by often using a first-person narrative in his essays. This style has personalized art criticism, making it experiential for readers and museumgoers.

Key Ideas

Steinberg famously said that "Anything anybody can do, painting does better..", indicating his profound love and reverence for the visual arts' ability to not just reflect life, but to become life itself.
Steinberg believed that the greatest difference between modern painting and that of the Old Masters was almost entirely to do with the viewer's subjective experience of the artwork.
Steinberg defied the assertion made by fellow critic Harold Rosenberg that the Abstract Expressionists were "Action Painters," who formed spontaneous events on the canvas. He believed that artists like de Kooning and Kline were far more deliberate in their efforts, and were far more concerned with creating good art than simply living on the canvas.


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