T.J. Clark at nonsite:
The line of French painting that stretches from Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People to Pablo Picasso’s Demoiselles d’Avignon (or from Camille Corot early in the 1820s to Henri Matisse on the eve of the First World War) is a unique episode in recent history. It has established itself as “world-historical,” to borrow a term from G. W. F. Hegel. That is, it continues to speak to aspects—distinctive features—of the modern condition which succeeding ages seem unable to bring into focus, or go on valuing and properly criticizing, without its aid. The tradition’s only rival, if this is the standard, may be German music from Johann Sebastian Bach to Richard Wagner.
The essay that follows is an attempt to speak to the “world-historical” character of French art—to speak to the subject as Hegel himself might have done. Such an account does not displace, or even “go deeper than,” the more familiar ones we have.