Art: The Quipster

The most important picture that Larry Rivers ever painted was Washington Crossing the Delaware. He was only redoing Emanuel Leutze's heroic tableau, painted in 1851 in Düsseldorf, which was in itself a pretty dubious romanticization of the past. But in 1953, with abstract expressionism firing off its salvos, Rivers might as well have glorified Benedict Arnold. Rivers was put down by the avant-garde as a reactionary, a brush-brandishing brontosaurus, or worst of all, a realist.

Nowadays pop art has made Rivers respectable. To even the most apocalyptic, often reluctant, critics, he appears as...

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