I first “met” Hilton in the summer of 1972, just before starting college, when I read his review of the great Henry Moore retrospective in Florence. I had already seen enough art writing to recognize Hilton’s prose for the breath of fresh air it was. I took away the lesson that art criticism could—and should—be engaging and individual, not just informative.

In college I read Hilton regularly, ever more avidly and closely as thoughts of a career as a critic took hold. Each piece was an education, seemingly more the work of an exceptionally literate college professor than a member of the Fourth Estate.

Soon enough, I encountered Hilton the Impaler. Having been brought up to politely overlook, rather than loudly point out, any elephants in the room, I was dumbfounded. Could one really say such things in public? But as I read Hilton more, I came to understand that his critical posture...


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