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The art of anticipation

Art historians are wrong to judge Adolph Menzel under the long shadow of non-existent progress

By John Armstrong   April 2001

When we look at a work of art we always do so in the light, or shadow, of ideas. We carry a more or less explicit set of assumptions around the gallery with us-assumptions which guide our eyes and fashion the kind of interest we take in what we see. But it sometimes happens that an apparently promising idea misfires and leads us away from the work we are considering. As a case in point, consider the idea of “anticipation.” It is one of the most favoured terms of contemporary art critics. It records the way in which an older…

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