Art sage Robert Hughes dies at 74 | Obituary
Mr. Hughes became as familiar a presence on television as he was in print, over three decades for Time magazine, where he was chief art critic and often a traditionalist scourge during an era when art movements fractured into unrecognizability.
The New York Times
Robert Hughes, the eloquent, combative art critic and historian who lived with operatic flair and wrote with a sense of authority that owed more to Zola or Ruskin than to his own century, died on Monday at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx. He was 74 and had lived for many years in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.
He died after a long illness, said his wife, Doris Downes.
With a Hemingwayesque build and the distinctively rounded vowels of his native Australia, Mr. Hughes became as familiar a presence on television as he was in print, over three decades for Time magazine, where he was chief art critic and often a traditionalist scourge during an era when art movements fractured into unrecognizability.
"The Shock of the New," his eight-part documentary about the development of modernism from the Impressionists through Warhol, was seen by more than 25 million viewers when it ran first on BBC, then on PBS, and the book that Mr. Hughes spun off from it, described as a "stunning critical performance" by Louis Menand of The New Yorker, was hugely popular. In 1997, writer Robert S. Boynton described Mr. Hughes as "the most famous art critic in the world."
He was as damning about artists who fell short of his expectations as he was ecstatic about those who met them, and his prose seemed to reach loftier heights when he was angry. As early as 1993, he described the work of Jeff Koons as "so overexposed that it loses nothing in reproduction and gains nothing in the original."
He said Andy Warhol, the most influential artist of the last 40 years, had only a handful of good years and that his corrosive shadow over contemporary art ultimately did more harm than good. "The alienation of the artist, of which one heard so much talk a few years ago," he wrote in 1975, "no longer exists for Warhol: his ideal society has crystallized round him and learned to love his entropy."
"The Fatal Shore," Mr. Hughes' epic 1987 history of his homeland, Australia — which he left in 1964 and where his reputation seemed to seesaw between hero and traitor — was a best-seller.
He continued to write prolifically on beloved subjects like Goya, painter Lucian Freud, fishing, American art history, Barcelona — and himself — even after a 1999 car crash in Australia left him with many health problems.