Twentieth Century Theories of Art


547 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography
ISBN 0-88629-111-9
DDC 701




Edited by James M. Thompson
Reviewed by Virgil Hammock

Virgil Hammock is president of the Canadian section of the International
Association of Art Critics and Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts
at Mount Allison University.


This anthology of art theory and criticism is a welcome addition to the
genre. Thompson has edited a worthwhile and much-needed addendum to
Chipp’s Theories of Modern Art. The Chipp book, first published in
1968, comprised writings by artists and a selected few articles by
critics. Thompson’s book is, on the other hand, limited to writings by
critics and theoreticians. There have been many changes in art theory
since the 1960s not reflected adequately by subsequent editions of
Chipp’s book.

Anthologies in art theory and criticism are difficult to edit—they
date quickly as artistic taste changes; twentieth-century art is
confusing with its multiplicity of styles. It has become difficult for
even the educated person to “understand” the art of this century,
and hence the need for reasoned discussion by both theoreticians and
critics. Unfortunately, much of this has added to the confusion.

This book is an attempt to bring some order to the chaos. Thompson has
neatly divided art into its “isms”—Impressionism,
Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Futurism, Cubism, Abstract Expressionism,
Modernism, and so on. And he discusses art theory’s development of its
own such “isms”—art Formalism, Existentialism, Post-Modernism,
Structuralism, and Pluralism, for example. The book covers everything
from Tolstoy to Derrida (from the sublime to the ridiculous). That being
said, this is still a highly useful book and one that should become a
standard reference for those interested in modern art theory and


“Twentieth Century Theories of Art,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,