Clement Greenberg

(1909-1968)


Clement Greenberg was born on January 16, 1909, in the Bronx, New York. Greenberg was an influential art critic, who was closely associated with the institutionalization of abstract art in the United States.

Following his graduation from Syracuse University, Greenberg first made a name for himself as an art critic with the publication of the essay, Avant-Garde and Kitsch (1939). In the essay, Greenberg argued that Modernist art was a channel to resist the repression of the culture created by consumerism. Greenberg framed the essay in a political manner as a response to Nazi Germany and its supression of society. Greenberg believed Modernism provided a critical commentary on experience.

Following World War II, he believed the best Modernist artists were emerging out of the United States rather than Europe, specifically identifying the rising artist, Jackson Pollock. Greenberg then began to promote the work of Abstract Expressionists, among them Pollock. In his writings, he helped to enable Abstractist art to become the dominant movement in American art from 1945 until the 1960s. It was these views which led Greenberg, during the 1960s, to reject the movement of Pop Art, which was ultimately initiated by consumerism. Frustrated by the emerging art movements, Greenberg retired in 1968.

Greenberg died on May 7, 1994.


Sources: “Clement Greenberg (1909 - 1968).” American Jewish Historical Society, American Jewish Desk Reference, (NY: Random House, 1999) pg. 313.

Autobiographical Statement 1955