The emergence of a really fresh and distinctive voice in the realm of art criticism is a rarer phenomenon than is commonly supposed—rarer, certainly, than the emergence of a striking new talent in art. For this reason, as well as for others, the publication of Sanford Schwartz’s The Art Presence must be regarded as something of an event.1 For this collection of essays on nineteenth- and twentieth-century painting, sculpture, and photography is the real thing—criticism that can be trusted to illumine rather than to obscure the objects of its attention. It displays a remarkable independence, too, both in the quality of its perceptions and in the very choice of its subjects. And it is written in a prose style that, while not without certain flaws, is lively, lucid, friendly,...


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