Stephen E. Ostrow Distinguished Visitors
APRIL 10, 2000
Michael Fried lectured on "Menzel's Realism: Art and Embodiment in Nineteenth-Century Berlin" on April 10 in Reed's Vollum lecture hall as a Stephen Ostrow Distinguished Visitor in the Visual Arts. His lecture is a continuation of his extensive work on nineteenth-century realism.
Michael Fried has had a remarkable dual career as art critic and art historian. He received his Ph.D. in fine arts from Harvard University in 1969 with a dissertation on the painting of Edouard Manet, but before that he had already established himself as one of the leading critics of contemporary American painting. The 1965 exhibition he organized, Three American Painters, was crucial in bringing attention to the work of Frank Stella, Jules Olitski, and Kenneth Noland. Fried's 1967 critical essay "Art and Objecthood" is the most influential and most widely read piece of art criticism of his generation. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews (University of Chicago Press, 1998), a collection of Fried's art criticism, is the most recent testimony to its importance.
Fried's decision, early in the 1970s, to write less criticism coincided with an increase in scholarly production that has made him one of the most eminent art historians working today. Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot (University of Chicago Press, 1980 and 1988) was awarded the Louis Gottschalk Prize for the outstanding book on an eighteenth-century subject. This study of eighteenth-century French art was followed by a trilogy of books on three of the most important and distinguished realist painters of the nineteenth century: Realism, Writing, Disfiguration: On Thomas Eakins and Stephen Crane (University of Chicago Press, 1987), Courbet's Realism (University of Chicago Press, 1990), and Manet's Modernism, or The Face of Painting in the 1860s (University of Chicago Press, 1996).
Fried received a B.A. in English from Princeton University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Merton College, Oxford. He has taught at Harvard University and is currently J. R. Herbert Boone Professor of Humanities and the director of the humanities center at Johns Hopkins University. In addition to his scholarly and critical achievements, Fried has published two books of poetry and is at work on a third.