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T.J. Clark: Bruegel, Picasso, and Pessimism

  • Deutsches Haus at NYU 42 Washington Mews New York, NY 10003 (map)
  Landscape with the Fall of Icarus , Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

A recent strong account of Bruegel ends by asserting that his Winter Landscape with a Bird Trap presents us with a 'terrifying perspective' on the world.  Is this right?  What is Bruegel's “attitude” to the things he shows us? What is the difference between Bruegel's and Picasso's Fall of Icarus? Is the word “pessimism” called for in either case?  How, in general, should language approach the non-language of paintings like The Cripples and Two Monkeys? Or come to that, like Picasso's Charnel House of 1945?

T.J. Clark is Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of many books including the seminal The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers and Farewell to an Idea: Episodes from a History of Modernism.

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