Faculty Books

Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried’s art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for Three American Painters, the text of his book Morris Louis, and the renowned “Art and Objecthood.” Originally published between 1962 and 1977, they continue to generate debate today. These are uncompromising, exciting, and impassioned writings, aware of their transformative power during a time of intense controversy about the nature of modernism and the aims and essence of advanced painting and sculpture.

Ranging from brief reviews to extended essays, and including major critiques of Jackson Pollock, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella, and Anthony Caro, these writings establish a set of basic terms for understanding key issues in high modernism: the viability of Clement Greenberg’s account of the infralogic of modernism, the status of figuration after Pollock, the centrality of the problem of shape, the nature of pictorial and sculptural abstraction, and the relationship between work and beholder. In a number of essays Fried contrasts the modernist enterprise with minimalist or literalist art, and, taking a position that remains provocative to this day, he argues that minimalism is essentially a genre of theater, hence artistically self-defeating.

For this volume Fried has also provided an extensive introductory essay in which he discusses how he became an art critic, clarifies his intentions in his art criticism, and draws crucial distinctions between his art criticism and the art history he went on to write. The result is a book that is simply indispensable for anyone concerned with modernist painting and sculpture and the task of art criticism in our time.


  • Santa Maria Immacolata in Ceri. Pittura sacra al tempo della riforma gregoriana-Sakrale Malerei Imzeitalter der Gregorianischen Reform (Arte e storia) (Italian and German)

  • January 1, 1996, Archivio Izzi
  • Nino Zchomelidse, author
  • Purchase Online

To the Center of the Earth is Michael Fried’s first collection of poems to appear in the United States. It includes selections from an earlier volume, Powers, as well as more recent work. For all their economy, Fried’s “muscular, tense and immensely resonant” poems, to quote one critic, are among the most sensuously direct and arresting being written today.


“‘This book,’ Michael Fried’s work opens, ‘was written not so much chapter by chapter as painting by painting over a span of roughly ten years.’ Courbet’s Realism is a magnificent work and its very first sentence brings us up against the qualities of mind of its author, qualities that make it as impressive as it is. It allows us to reconstruct the keen eye, the commitment to perception, the gift of rapt concentration, the conviction that great paintings are not necessarily understood easily, and the further conviction that a great painter deserves to get from us as good as he gives. By drawing on these qualities, Fried achieves something out of reach for all but a handful of his colleagues. In his writing, art history takes on some of the character of art itself. It is driven by the same stubborn resolve to open our eyes.”
—Richard Wollheim, San Francisco Review of Books


“A highly original and gripping account of the works of Eakins and Crane. That remarkable combination of close reading and close viewing which Fried uniquely commands is brought to bear on the problematic nature of the making of images, of texts, and of the self in nineteenth-century America.”
—Svetlana Alpers, University of California, Berkeley


With this widely acclaimed work, Fried revised the way in which eighteenth-century French painting and criticism were viewed and understood.