I was sad to hear of Leo Steinberg’s death today, at the grand old age of 90 years! The news was broken by Rembrandt scholar Gary Schwartz; I picked it up from Art Info and Culture Grrl. Here’s another obit, from the NYT.
Here’s part of Art Info’s tribute:
“A writer and thinker of immense erudition, Steinberg is considered alongside art critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg as one of the most influential voices in shaping the way art was discussed and looked at in 20th century America. Writing and teaching in an era when the reception of new art was still largely codified by university departments, Steinberg electrified the art world in 1972 with his classic book "Other Criteria," which introduced the notion of the "flatbed picture plane" — a potent entry point for grasping the dimension-annihilating flatness of work by Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns — through essays on those two artists as well as Picasso, Philip Guston, Robert Rauschenberg, and Willem de Kooning.”
I didn’t know his stuff on modern art; it was mainly his writings on the renaissance I knew, particularly his book on the Christ Child in renaissance art. This proved a godsend to me when students assailed me with the question “Why does the Christ Child look like that in the renaissance”? Now I could simply refer them to Steinberg who knew more than most about that subject.
An original thinker who’ll be sorely missed. The field is intellectually poorer for his loss.