Is freedom the parent of modern art, as indicated
by Rene d'Harnoncourt in this article, or is communism its parent, as contended by Esther Julia Pels'
article, Art for Whose Sake? published in our February, 1956, issue?
After you read this rebuttal by the Director of the
Museum of Modern Art of New York, perhaps you'll
be interested in securing reprints of both of these
articles on this controversial subject.
by Rene d'Harnoncourt
Director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York
THE historical inaccuracies and
misrepresentations in the article
on modern art which first appeared in the October issue of the
American Legion Magazine and was
reprinted in the February issue of
Facts Forum News, gives such a distorted picture of the subject that they
should be corrected in the interests of
truth and fair play. We greatly appreciate Facts Forum News' offer to publish a reply.
Every age must find its own way to
express the ideas it generates. No age-
has ever successfully expressed itself
in the exact language or imagery of
the past. New forms of expression reflecting new ways of looking at the
world, whether presented by the
philosopher Socrates, the scientist Gal-
lileo or the painter Cezanne have
always been under attack bv contemporaries who find them incomprehensible and disturbing.
In times of insecurity this sense of
disturbance often turns into acute
unxiety and tbe character of the attacks against the new becomes violent.
In such times everything unfamiliar is
looked upon by some people with suspicion and fear. In the field of the arts.
these attacks are as old as art itself
and follow well established patterns.
At first new forms of expression are
condemned because thev- do not live
up to yesterday's artistic canons. Later
these art forms and their creators arc-
decried as tools of force destructive to
The attacks on impressionism in
France at the end of the 19th century
offer a good example of this. In the
wake of the disastrous Franco-Prussian war, France was shaken by political unrest, based on fear of Germany
and anarchism and accompanied by
outbursts of anti-Semitism. These anxieties manifested themselves in many
ways and affected even the criticism
of the new art movement. Painters
who are today universally popular and
widely acclaimed as masters eif 19th
century art, men such at Renoir.
Cezanne, Monet and Degas, were indiscriminately attacked because of
their style of painting and called anarchists, Communists, decadents and
imbeciles. The fact is that these painters represented the most divergent
political views: Cezanne, the son of a
banker, was a conservative, Degas a
reactionary, Renoir leftist in sympathies, and Monet politically inert. Yet
all of them were indiscriminately
tarred by the- same brush of radicalism
because their critics, led by the academic artists of that time, didn't
understand or like their paintings and
felt that somehow thev must be subversive. This campaign played a decisive part in causing the French National Museum to reject some ol their
paintings at that time —a el,
which is deplored in France to'''1-.
because of the irreparable loss ,
caused to the cultural resources
In recent vears the outstanding &
amples of this type of attack n»jj
been given to us by the leaders of'.
totalitarian states who consider
freedom of individual expression ' ;'|!
gerous to the enforcement of the d<*
matic order they established. x
similar attacks on modern art W
issued from the Nazi Brown Hoi''-'
Munich anel from the Kremlin in M »
cow. Their conte-nt and even tt> ,
language in condemning modern '
are often indistinguishable. Adject1*
such as nonsensical, inhuman, df»
erate and perverted appear in M
same context in the speeches of H1 ,-
as they do in the writings of Kemp" -
Hitler, of course, added the eptfM
un-German and Bolshevistic w|Vj]
Kemenov (speaking for Stalin) c*jj
modern art capitalistic, imperii'"'
and bourgeois. J
Such fear-generated attacks on 9j
forms of expression are by no !"■
limited to totalitarian states. In ^
i Tv'"' -
the very danger which totalitarifjj
presents to free men has engen^ y
fear and distrust among people "J
in a free society. It is unfortunate ,tf
this reaction to a very real threat <*j
leads people to adopt attitude
Fails Font \i Ni.ws. jun*-
S, !!"e '■