Art: Last Stop

"It is possible that present-day art has little esthetic value; but he who sees in it only a caprice may be very sure indeed that he has not understood either the new art or the old. Evolution has conducted painting—and art in general—inexorably, fatally, to what it is today."

By that double-edged dictum, Spanish Philosopher José Ortega y Gasset cuts the ground from under the moderns and anti-moderns alike. Writing with gloomy detachment in the current Partisan Review, Ortega traces the evolution of painting from Giotto to Picasso, describes it as "a unique and simple action with a beginning and an end."

Giotto,...

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