For critics, it's better to be interesting than right

For critics, it's better to be interesting than right

Postby CAP » Thu Feb 03, 2011 6:35 am

This is the title from Jonathan Jones' current blog @ The Guardian. Like almost everything Jones' says, I find it utterly wrong.

The argument is that the critic (his example is Denis Diderot preferring Greuze to Boucher, then later, John Ruskin) is not obliged to be correct or right in passing judgement, so much as 'interesting'. Diderot's judgement of Greuze never stood the test of time, but allowed Diderot to formuluate an ideal for painting (basically, that French painting should try and pick up where Dutch genre painting had left off in the preceding century). Which Jones finds 'interesting'. As usual, Jones misses the point. Diderot may have found more of what he wanted in Greuze than Boucher, but really he preferred Chardin to both. And both would probably have acknowledged old Jean Simeon was in a class above them, and Diderot's standards belonged to an Enlightment they could exploit but not advance. But the point is not to be endlessly amusing, yet trivial (one suspects, an ideal for Jones) but to be NOT ONLY correct BUT ALSO interesting.

The critic may find many true things to say about a work or artist, but many of these will be familiar or trivial. The trick is probe a little deeper, to find what is also true, but less obvious or accepted. Good critics in this sense. struggle for acceptance, much as artists do. But this is a challenge that will be completely alien to Jones' nature or practice.

This post is inspired by the same issue on Edward Winkleman's blog.
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