Friday, December 23, 2011

A Fable of Modern Art - Dore Ashton

"(...) the archetypal modern artist, existing in a constant state of anxiety, plagued by metaphysical doubt"

In A Fable of Modern Art Dore Ashton tries to trace the origins of modern art to Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece (ebook in English here), on his least known books. The book is composed by 5 essays, each of which is dedicated to The Unknown Masterpiece, and its influences on Cézanne, Picasso, Rilke, and Schönberg.

This is not a  book for general audiences, so if you haven't read The Unknown Masterpiece, or if you're not familiar with the four artists mentioned above, reading this book will be very painful, or at least boring. Also, if you don't think that modern art is the ultimate stage of human creation, you will find Ashton's arguments biased and groupie-like. 

Shortly, this is a book for the NY modern art clique, whose members are most likely friends with Ashton, but which is, after all, a very small group. It shouldn't come as a surprise that A Fable of Modern Art is out of print and the University of California Press has no intention to re-issue it in the short or medium term. 

Below is part 1 (and here's part 2 and 3) of Pierrot Lunaire, on which Schönberg "used the human voice as an unearthly counterpart to the clear colors his instruments produced", according to Ashton (in their infinite wisdom, some Youtube users say that it's hard to appreciate this music unless you have a previous knowledge of the theory behind it; so please, go back to school if you're not ready for this).

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