Dore Ashton, art historian and critic, 1928–2017

Dore Ashton, 1928–2017

The art historian and critic Dore Ashton has died at the age of 89, El Pais reports. Ashton taught at Cooper Union for many years before going on to teach at Yale. A champion of the New York School, she wrote more than 30 books such as About Rothko, A Fable of Modern Art, Noguchi East and West and Picasso on Art, and contributed essays and articles to numerous publications. She was born in 1928 in Newark, New Jersey, and after graduating from Harvard with a masters in fine art in 1950, Ashton took up a role as a staff writer for The New York Times, from which she was supposedly fired from for her avant-garde views on art criticism. In the 50s and 60s Ashton contributed to Arts Magazine in New York and was US correspondent for the British Studio International.

On the role of the critic, Ashton said: “The mission of the contemporary critic is often construed as a purgative activity, aimed at ridding commentary of ornamental maunderings... But in the passionate effort to deal with essences, or things in themselves, much modern criticism has deleted a whole realm of experience... The first effort of the critic should be to see the unique quality inherent in a work, the quality that immediately attracts the receiver and moves him. But the critic must also remember that other action of a work: its expansiveness. If it moves us, it can move us emotionally, morally, psychologically, intellectually, historically, depending on a host of subtle considerations. It seems to me that twentieth-century art must be considered in a double perspective... Like a big city, twentieth-century art has many quartiers.”

2 February 2017