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Conservatives Against Hard Work

January 31st, 2007 · 5 Comments

Via Ross, number 4,839,215 in the ongoing series of tedious conservative jeremiads against modern art manages to be not only willfully, proudly obtuse (no surprises there) but, it seems to me, fairly openly un-conservative. Here’s the author’s main beef:

Modern art is ideological, as its proponents are the first to admit. It was the ideologues, namely the critics, who made the reputation of the abstract impressionists, most famously Clement Greenberg’s sponsorship of Jackson Pollock in The Partisan Review. It is not supposed to “please” the senses on first glance, after the manner of a Raphael or an Ingres, but to challenge the viewer to think and consider.

This is a conservative view? We’re supposed to reject any art or cultural product that isn’t easy and immediately pleasing? What happened to the idea that the great works of the Western canon often require—and repay—careful study? That a fully adult aesthetic sense requires a measure of education? Maybe next we can remove the Oedipus trilogy from the curriculum, because man, Sophocles is a bummer. There’s a whole line of uplifting Chicken Soup for the Soul books we could swap in instead.

Tags: Art & Culture



5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Reality Man // Jan 31, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    I’ve never quite got why so many conservatives cannot stand abstract art. Impressionism is over a century old, after all. Abstraction isn’t exactly new any more. It is also interesting that he chose Raphael and Ingres as examples of good traditional art, especially considering they were among some of the more boring members of the canon of old. Not exactly a Bosch fan, is he?

  • 2 Jeff Singer // Feb 1, 2007 at 11:13 am

    For a more intelligent conservative guide to modern art, see this blog post:


    Hilton Kramer is the man you should read to help you learn and appreciate modern art.

  • 3 Nick // Feb 1, 2007 at 12:18 pm

    No, he’s talking about visual art there. Painting until the twentieth century really was supposed to be pleasing to the senses in an immediate fashion. Paintings by Raphael or Ingres can also be visually or dramatically complex, can be intellectually stimulating, but their major function is not to pose some philosophical or political question. They are meant to be beautiful. Comparing those paintings to Sophocles misses the point entirely. Of course, the aural beauty and strict meter of Sophocles’ poetry is another feature that is missing from Chicken Soup.

  • 4 Neel Krishnaswami // Feb 1, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    The reasons conservatives don’t like modern art is because most modern artists don’t like conservatives. The effort to try and dress up mutual disdain for the other guy’s politics in terms of some higher aesthetic principle is a wonderful source of entertainment, at least for those of us entertained by watching people trying to dance around the fact that their arguments are wildly illogical and make no sense.

  • 5 John Tabin // Feb 4, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    Is “Spengler” really a conservative? I suppose he’s somewhere on the right, if he’s on the political spectrum at all, but I’ve always just thought of him as a sui generis iconoclast.