“There’s a tendency with everything being online to think of images — infinitely reproducible and tweetable — but to actually be at the museum and have this space between you and the physical object, there’s a charge that happens between you and the artwork, and that simply doesn’t exist in the online world.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic Sebastian Smee joins the show to talk about his career and the notions of artistic rivalry, influence and love, and how they came together in his 2017 book, The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals and Breakthroughs in Modern Art. We get into how he got his start in art criticism in Australia, his love for Matisse and Manet, his friendship with Lucian Freud, why American has the best museums, the importance of seeing art in the physical world and not just as images onscreen, the joy of writing for The Washington Post and why his wonderful Great Works, In Focus series needs a better name, and his new project about Berthe Morisot and the Siege of Paris. We also discuss the exhibitions he’d love to curate, why he’s jealous of my art-practice, the influence of Robert Hughes, the balance of color and line, the identities we gain and lose online, the one piece of art he’s really hoping to see before the end, why the Philip Guston controversy was so disturbing, and more! Give it a listen! And go read The Art of Rivalry!
“While my first love is painting, drawing and the more traditional arts, there’s no question that some of the best work made in the last 20 or 30 years has been video art, and other new media.”
“As a young critic who’d just moved from Australia to Britain, to be spending time with Lucian Freud was extraordinary. He’s still by far the most interesting person I’ve ever met.”
“For me, color is more of the essence than line in 20th century art. I know that’s a dumb thing to say because the two are completely related, but color does speak to me a little more.”
About our Guest
Sebastian Smee is a Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic at The Washington Post and the author of The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals and Breakthroughs in Modern Art. He worked at the Boston Globe from 2008 to 2016, teaches at Wellesley College, and has previously worked in London and Sydney for the Daily Telegraph (U.K.), the Guardian, the Spectator, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian and the Monthly.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Sebastian by Pat Greenhouse, and painting of Young Woman Watering a Shrub (1876) by Berthe Morisot courtesy of Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. They’re on my instagram.