Modernism: The Lure of Heresy, By Peter Gay

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The Independent Culture

Starting with Baudelaire as the founder of modernism, Gay gives an absorbing account of how international artistic rebellion became mainstream and lucrative.

His sweeping narrative ranges from Wilde to Frank Gehry. Though Gay iterates the guiding principles of the movement ("I cannot say it often enough: modernism was not democratic"), his epic text blurs modernism with the merely modern and his opinions on leading figures sometimes lack focus.

What does he mean when he says that Pollock's "drip canvases were not a bid for artistic freedom but, in fact, its realisation"? There are odd omissions, such as the proto-pop painter Stuart Davis and designers like Charles Eames and Raymond Loewy, responsible for some of the most typical examples of modernism.