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The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art (edition 2005)

by Roger Kimball

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Member:artistlibrarian
Title:The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art
Authors:Roger Kimball
Info:Encounter Books (2005), Paperback, 186 pages
Collections:art, non-fiction, Your library
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Tags:art history, art criticism, academic writing

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The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art by Roger Kimball

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Author Robert Kimball, the art critic for the National Review, protests too much. The Rape of the Masters is a little too easy for him; some of the politically correct art historian writing he criticizes is almost self-parody. Several paintings and their deconstructions critiques get manhandled; the centerpiece is Kimball’s annihilation of Professor David Lubin’s analysis of John Singer Sargeant’s The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.

Professor Lubin decides that the important part of the painting is not the picture, but the fact that the subjects have the surname “Boit“, which is only slightly different from the French word boîte, and that the father of the children has the first name “Edward”. Lubin decides that the “E” in Edward represents a man with an erection; the î in boîte is a circumcised penis, and the e in boîte is a clitoris; thus the painting actually represents Edward Darley Boit’s desire to prostitute his daughters. I’ll never be able to eat alphabet soup again.


As I said, this is really too easy for Kimball. But I think he goes a little too far. Another deconstructionist critique he goes after is Anna Chave’s of a Mark Rothko painting, Untitled 1953.

Chave (in much more roundabout language) says one of the things the painting symbolizes is an open grave; Kimball dismisses this with the contention that it’s just an attractive arrangement of colored rectangles. You know what, though? For me, it does kind of suggest an open grave – which in turn suggests the gravedigger scene from Hamlet, Shakespere in general, Gweneth Paltrow, a girl I had a crush on in high school, miniskirts, the war in Vietnam, Grignard reactions, lithium batteries, the Tesla car, the Tunguska meteorite impact, iridium, my sled Rosebud, and I could go on for a while. Art is supposed to inspire some sort of emotion in the viewer, and if Untitled 1953 inspires something that the artist did not intend, what’s the harm in that? (Although if The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit inspires a desire to prostitute your children, I hope you’re institutionalized somewhere).

Thus, The Rape of the Masters is OK as yet another preaching-to-the-choir attack on Deconstructionism, but perhaps doesn’t say as much as Kimball thinks it does about our reactions to art. ( )
1 vote setnahkt | Dec 29, 2017 |
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"Colleges and universities used to teach art history to encourage connoisseurship and acquaint students with the riches of our artistic heritage. But now, as Roger Kimball reveals in this book, the student is less likely to learn about the aesthetics of masterworks than to be told, for instance, that Peter Paul Rubens' great painting Drunken Silenus is an allegory about anal rape. Or that Courbet's famous hunting pictures are psychodramas about "castration anxiety." Or that Gauguin's Manao tupapau is an example of the way repression is "written on the bodies of women." Or that Winslow Homer's The Gulf Stream is "a visual encoding of racism."" "In The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art, Kimball, an art critic and essayist, shows how academic art history is increasingly held hostage to radical cultural politics - feminism, cultural studies, postcolonial studies and other weapons in the armory of academic anti-humanism. To make his point, Kimball describes the way seven famous works of art - all beautifully reproduced in this volume - have been reinterpreted by contemporary art historians to fit a radical ideological fantasy. He then performs a series of intellectual rescue operations, explaining how these great works should be understood through a series of illuminating readings in which art, not politics, guides the discussion." "The Rape of the Masters exposes the charlatanry that stands behind much academic art history and oozes into the art world generally. It also provides an antidote to the tendentious, politically motivated assaults on our treasured sources of culture and civilization that are occurring not only in our universities but in our museums and art galleries as well."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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