Clement Greenberg

American writer and critic, Clement Greenberg.
American writer and critic, Clement Greenberg. Courtesy Barford Sculptures Limited. Image not licensed for reuse.


Clement Greenberg

The American art critic, Clement Greenberg, was one of the most respected writers on contemporary art in the 20th century, and his texts remain influential. His 1955 essay ‘American-Type Paintingchampioned Abstract Expressionist painters Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Clyfford Still and Hans Hofmann. ‘Modernist Painting’, published in 1960, built on themes raised in his famous Marxist-influenced essay ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch’ (1939). Greenberg published ‘Art and Culture’ in 1961, a collection of essays that distilled his views on 20th-century art.

In 1964 Greenberg was the curator of an exhibition of works by colour field painters including Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Jules Olitski at the Los Angeles Museum of Art. While many artists were influenced by Greenberg, his ideas and approach were also considered controversial and some people opposed his views and disliked him personally. He had a strong character and sought to influence the private lives of some of the artists he was close to. Read Dr Jon Wood’s essay on Greenberg on Voices of art, and catch up on contrasting views about him from speakers such as gallerist John Kasmin, and artists Sheila Girling and Robyn Denny.

Biography and education

Clement Greenberg was born on 16 January 1909 in New York City, United States. He took art classes at the New York City Art Students’ League and attended Syracuse University in 1930, where he studied languages and literature. Fluent in Yiddish since childhood, Greenberg taught himself German, French, Italian and Latin.

Clement Greenberg died on 7 May 1994 in New York City, United States, aged 85.

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