Harold Rosenberg

“A self-declared outsider, the renowned essayist and art critic Harold Rosenberg (1906-1978) rose to prominence in the 20th century to become one of the most essential voices in the discourse of American art. … The author’s ability to decipher the entanglements of a cultural milieu that emerged from this intellectual hotbed is remarkable, and her historical precision alongside some 15 years of research is especially noteworthy. Ms. [Debra Bricker] Balken’s writing is compelling and evenhanded, illuminating some of the last century’s most conspicuous intellectual scuffles, social convolutions, and cultural progress with stunning lucidity. … Often remarking that he got his education on those steps, Rosenberg studied Karl Marx, became a poet, and commenced the study of politics, literature, art, and culture while commingling within the political stew of Marxism, Trotskyism, and Stalinism, among other ideologies. Though he would continue to paint until his 30s, writing became his métier. … This period would mark the evolution of Rosenberg’s theses regarding modernism, the rise of abstraction, and the very act of creation. Later, he would coin the term ‘action painting,’ embraced by Abstract Expressionist painters such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and Mark Rothko. In the seminal essay ‘The American Action Painters,’ published in ARTnews in 1952, Rosenberg championed the very act of painting. … Ms. Balken has a special gift for unraveling historical detail, and throughout the text she recounts the shifting cultural alliances in America’s political, art, and literary circles with dramatic clarity. Many of the last century’s cultural giants make cameo appearances, among them the French Existentialists Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, the activist and author Mary McCarthy, the ARTnews editor Thomas Hess, the philosopher Hannah Arendt, the artists Philip Guston and Stuart Davis, and the founder and editor of Poetry magazine, Harriet Monroe. …”
“Harold Rosenberg: A Critic’s Life”
What Did Harold Rosenberg Do? An Introduction to the Champion of “Action Painting”
W – Harold Rosenberg
BOOKFORUM: Creation Myths – Debra Bricker Balken
Stud Sterkel (Audio)

Saul Steinberg’s “Portrait of Harold Rosenberg,” 1972, watercolor and crayon, Yale University Art Gallery.

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