“To critique the critic”

Harold Rosenberg: A Critic’s LifeDebra Bricker Balken, University of Chicago Press (£32)

“When anyone speaks of the arbiters of artistic credibility in the rough-and-tumble New York scene of Abstract Expressionism, two names top the list: Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg. Of “the two bergs”, Greenberg is better known. Now, Debra Bricker Balken, an independent scholar of American Modernism, has written the first full biography of Rosenberg.

“Harold Rosenberg (1906-1978) was born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn. The disaffected and aimless Rosenberg drifted through early life. He did not fit in with his preppy peers and studied law apathetically. He was attracted to Marxist thought, but in an intellectual rather than ideological way. Rosenberg started writing in 1929, following a period of illness that confined him to bed.

“Rosenberg’s formidable intellect and breadth of cultural knowledge was complemented by an imposing physical presence. At 6’4” and with a “piercing” gaze, Rosenberg’s striking appearance made him an unmistakeable figure at any gathering he attended. He married May Tabak in 1932 but this did not impair his womanising…”

Read the full review on The Critic here: https://thecritic.co.uk/to-critique-the-critic/