Hilton Kramer finally made it to PaceWildenstein’s Rothko: A Painter’s Progress, the Year 1949:
Anyone who’s made a close study of Bonnard’s paintings will have no trouble finding traces of the French master’s aesthetic in the pictures that have now been brought together in the Painter’s Progress exhibition, which focuses on the year 1949. This was the year in which Rothko perfected his own mastery of the paintings he called “dramas,” which most of us regard as some of the most beautiful abstract paintings in the entire modern canon.
It has been admitted that Bonnard was an unlikely figure to influence any painter associated with the Abstract Expressionists, who prided themselves on their independence from the School of Paris. And it goes without saying that Rothko never acknowledged the debt. Yet, as D.H. Lawrence once said, “Trust the tale, not the teller of the tale,” meaning, of course, that a writer’s or artist’s work must be judged on the basis of what it is, not on the basis of descriptive claims. Unless prompted by Rothko, I doubt that any visitor to Rothko: A Painter’s Progress would regard this beautifully installed exhibition as a show of “dramas.” But thanks to what we now know about Rothko’s interest in Bonnard, this exhibition turns out to be an even richer experience than it might otherwise have been….
Read the whole thing here. The show is only up through Feb. 23, so if you didn’t go when I wrote about it last month (and if not, why not?), don’t delay.