A Sweeper-Up After Artists: A Memoir by Irving Sandler - review by William Packer

William Packer

Impressions of Expressionists

A Sweeper-Up After Artists: A Memoir

By

Thames & Hudson 382pp £18.95 order from our bookshop
 

All memoirs are interesting, up to a point, and in so far as they are interesting, they are useful. Given the subject of this particular memoir (which is the life, the work, the feuds, the friendships and the gossip of the New York avant-garde over the past fifty years, closely observed and recorded from the inside by one of its most active and partisan survivors), it promised to be very interesting indeed. For this is the period that saw the rise of Abstract Expressionism, through the Forties and the Fifties, from the controversial engagement of a narrow coterie of painters and their supporters, virtuously embattled against the philistines in worthy poverty and , - critical neglect, to the achievement, by the early 1960s, of international renown. Pollock and Rothko, Kline and de Kooning, Motherwell and Still, the critics Greenberg and Rosenberg, the dealers Castelli, Lloyd, Janis - here they are, the heroes or villains as the case may be. From Rauschenberg to Koons it is a story that continues today.

Yet its interest may not always be of quite the kind that one imagines its author intended. Because, for all his seriousness (and he is of very serious mind indeed), Professor Sandler reveals himself to be less the Boswell, as a fellow critic once described him, than the Pooter of

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter