Harold Rosenberg


American Writer, Educator, Philosopher and Art Critic

Author Quotes

An artist is a person who has invented an artist.

Whoever undertakes to create soon finds himself engaged in creating himself.

At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act – rather than a space in which to reproduce, redesign, analyze or 'express' an object, actual or imagined. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.

Cease to regard the canvas as a surface on which to paint a picture, but instead as a surface on which to record an event.

Co-operating critics comb the studios like big-league scouts, prepared to spot the art of the future and to take lead in establishing reputations. Art historians stand by ready with cameras and notebooks to make sure every novel detail is safe for the record. The tradition of the new has reduced all other traditions to triviality...

Form, color, composition, drawing, are auxiliaries, any one of which... can be dispensed with.

No dealer, curator, buyer or critic, or any existing combination of these, can be depended on to produce a reputation that is more than a momentary flurry.

Only conservatives believe that subversion is still being carried on in the arts and that society is being shaken by it. Advanced art today is no longer a cause -- it contains no moral imperative. There is no virtue in clinging to principles and standards, no vice in selling or in selling out.

The aim of every authentic artist is not to conform to the history of art, but to release himself from it in order to replace it with his own history.

The artist does not exist except as a personification, a figure of speech that represents the sum total of art itself. It is painting that is the genius of the painter, poetry of the poet, and a person is a creative artist to the extent that he participates in that genius.

The decision to be revolutionary usually counts for very little… The most radical changes have come from personalities who were conservative and even conventional.

The differences between revolution in art and revolution in politics are enormous. Revolution in art lies not in the will to destroy but in the revelation of what has already been destroyed. Art kills only the dead.

The purpose of education is to keep a culture from being drowned in senseless repetitions, each of which claims to offer a new insight.

The story of Americans is the story of arrested metamorphoses. Those who achieve success come to a halt and accept themselves as they are. Those who fail become resigned and accept themselves as they are.

The values to which the conservative appeals are inevitably caricatured by the individuals designated to put them into practice.

They had enough. They wanted to enjoy their life.

American time has stretched around the world. It has become the dominant tempo of modern history, especially of the history of Europe.

What better way to prove that you understand a subject than to make money out of it?

A painter with prestige among painters is bound to be discovered sooner or later.

A painting that is an act is inseparable from the biography of the artist.

Advanced art today is no longer a cause - it contains no moral imperative. There is no virtue in clinging to principles and standards, no vice in selling or in selling out.

America is the civilization of people engaged in transforming themselves. In the past, the stars of the performance were the pioneer and the immigrant. Today, it is youth and the Black.

The struggle to make an absolute statement in an individually conceived vocabulary accounts for the profound tensions inherent in the best modern work.

Not only the artist but everyone "becomes someone else" in becoming someone. One is thought about, thus invented. Or as Steinberg put it with memorable succinctness in his Cogito drawings, "I think, therefore Descartes is." One creates not oneself but another. Being is in the act.

It is not logical for art to be logical. Art goes against the grain of the times as readily as it goes with it and at the very same moment. Instead of seeking the nearest exit, art responds to a new situation by uncovering a labyrinth of problems.

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American Writer, Educator, Philosopher and Art Critic