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Critic by Lajos Tihanyi. Oil on canvas, c. 1916. Tihanyi The Critic.jpg
Critic by Lajos Tihanyi. Oil on canvas, c.1916.

A critic is a person who communicates an assessment and an opinion of various forms of creative works such as art, literature, music, cinema, theater, fashion, architecture, and food. Critics may also take as their subject social or government policy. Critical judgments, whether derived from critical thinking or not, weigh up a range of factors, including an assessment of the extent to which the item under review achieves its purpose and its creator's intention and a knowledge of its context. They may also include a positive or negative personal response.


Characteristics of a good critic are articulateness, preferably having the ability to use language with a high level of appeal and skill. Sympathy, sensitivity and insight are important too. Form, style and medium are all considered by the critic. In architecture and food criticism, the item's function, value and cost may be added components.

Critics are publicly accepted and, to a significant degree, followed because of the quality of their assessments or their reputation. Influential critics of art, music, theater and architecture often present their arguments in complete books. One very famous example is John Ruskin's Seven Lamps of Architecture and The Stones of Venice . Critics may base their assessment on a range of theoretical positions. For instance, they may take a feminist or Freudian perspective. [1]

Unlike other individuals who may editorialize on subjects via websites or letters written to publications, professional critics are paid to produce their assessment and opinions for print, radio, magazine, television, or Internet companies. When their personal opinion outweighs considered judgment, people who give opinions, whether on current events, public affairs, sports, media or art are often referred to as "pundits" instead of critics.

Critics are themselves subject to competing critics, since the final critical judgment always entails subjectivity. An established critic can play a powerful role as a public arbiter of taste or opinion. Also, critics or a coordinated group of critics, may award symbols of recognition.


The word "critic" comes from Greek κριτικός (kritikós) 'able to discern', [2] which is a Greek derivation of the word κριτής(krités), meaning a person who offers reasoned judgment or analysis, value judgment, interpretation or observation. [3] Early English meaning of criticism was based mainly on the criticism of literature and it was in the 17th century that more general forms of criticism began.[ citation needed ]

Critics' views of criticism

Cultural critic Clement Greenberg wrote that a good critic excels through "insights into the evidence ... and by ... loyalty to the relevant"; poet and critic T.S. Eliot wrote "a critic must have a very highly developed sense of fact". [4]

In 1971, Harold C. Schonberg, chief music critic of The New York Times from 1960 to 1980, said that he wrote for himself, "not necessarily for readers, not for musicians. ... It's not a critic's job to be right or wrong; it's his job to express an opinion in readable English." [5] Schonberg was the first music critic to receive the Pulitzer Prize for criticism.

Daniel Mendelsohn described the equation of criticism for critics as knowledge + taste = meaningful judgement. [6] [7]

Restaurant critic Terry Durack explained that from a critic "you hope for a thorough, objective and legitimate discussion" that puts "opera, art or book into context, so that it adds to your own body of knowledge"; in the context of a restaurant criticism, this means it is "not about me liking it or not; it's about me helping you decide whether you are going to like it or not." [8]

Rothko's dilemma was that he wanted to employ the vocabulary of symbolism  the palpitating indeterminate space, the excruciatingly refined colour, the obsession with nuance, the presence of Mallarmé's "negated object"  to render the patriarchal despair and elevation of the Old Testament. Criticism doesn't get sharper, or more sensitive, or more deeply sympathetic to the object, than that.

Robert Hughes (critic) on (artist) Mark Rothko [9]

Social and political critics

Social and political critics have used various forms of art to express their criticism, including literature and music. Pierre Beaumarchais, for example, prior to the French Revolution, used his play The Marriage of Figaro to denounce aristocratic privilege, and a critic's influence is enhanced by subsequent reworkings such as the operatic versions of Beaumarchais's play ( The Barber of Seville ) by Rossini and ( The Marriage of Figaro ) by Mozart. August Ahlqvist, a Finnish professor and poet, who highly admired J. L. Runeberg, the national poet of Finland, gave very negative feedback to the entire literary production of the author Aleksis Kivi, when Kivi presented content of the peoples social life in the form of rude realism instead of romanticism. [10] [11] Among the most famous social/political criticism in literary form are Jonathan Swift's satire Gulliver's Travels and George Orwell's satire Animal Farm . Some political critics, such as Ai Weiwei use visual art as their medium. Throughout history, political critics have faced higher risks, including the risk of imprisonment or death. [12] [13] [14] [15] [16]

Online critics

Several websites have developed for the purpose of compiling or publishing original critical reviews. Examples include Blogcritics, Rotten Tomatoes, and Yelp. According to A. O. Scott, chief film critic for The New York Times , everyone on the Internet is a critic. [17] Some critics like Roger Ebert achieve iconic status in pop culture and become well regarded. [18] [19] [20]

Cinematography and television

The American film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel collaborated and appeared on television sometimes agreeing on their review of cinematographic works; sometimes they would differ.

Film critics may use star classification to qualify the reviewed works.

Characters depicting critics have been part of some movies, and have been represented in comedies, such as a food critic in the animated fantasy-comedy Ratatouille , and as an art critic in one of the initial parts of the anthology comedy film The History of the World Part I .

Responses to critics

People whose work is the subject of criticism have a full range of responses to it. For example, they may be appreciative, offended, distressed, encouraged, amused or nonplussed.

We do not object to criticism; and we do not expect that the critic will read the book before writing a notice of it. We do not even expect the reviewer of the book will say that he has not read it. No we have no anticipations of anything unusual in this age of criticism.

Satirical comment about potential criticism by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their Preface to the American Edition of their co-authored novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today . [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

Pulitzer Prize for Criticism

The Pulitzer Prize for Criticism has been presented since 1970 to a newspaper writer in the United States who has demonstrated 'distinguished criticism'. Recipients of the award are chosen by an independent board and officially administered by Columbia University. The Pulitzer Committee issues an official citation explaining the reasons for the award.

Roger Ebert American film critic, author (1942–2013)

Roger Joseph Ebert was an American film critic, film historian, journalist, screenwriter, and author. He was a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, Ebert became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times said Ebert "was without question the nation's most prominent and influential film critic," and Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times called him "the best-known film critic in America."

Literary criticism Study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature

Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of literature's goals and methods. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critics are not always, and have not always been, theorists.

Terrence Malick American film director and screenwriter, born 1943

Terrence Frederick Malick is an American film director, screenwriter, and producer.

Aleksis Kivi National writer of Finland

Aleksis Kivi was a Finnish author who wrote the first significant novel in the Finnish language, Seitsemän veljestä in 1870. He is also known for his 1864 play Heath Cobblers. Although Kivi was among the very earliest authors of prose and lyrics in Finnish, he is still considered one of the greatest.

<i>Seitsemän veljestä</i> Finnish novel by Aleksis Kivi

Seitsemän veljestä is the first and only novel by Aleksis Kivi, the national author of Finland. It is widely regarded as the first significant novel written in Finnish and by a Finnish-speaking author, and it is considered to be a real pioneer of Finnish realistic folklore. Today, some people still regard it as the greatest Finnish novel ever written. The deep significance of the work for Finnish culture has even been quoted internationally, and in a BBC article by Lizzie Enfield, for example, describes Kivi's Seitsemän veljestä as "the book that shaped a Nordic identity."

Criticism is the construction of a judgement about the positive and negative qualities of someone or something. Criticism can range from impromptu comments to a written detailed response. Criticism falls into several overlapping types including "theoretical, practical, impressionistic, affective, prescriptive, or descriptive".

Pauline Kael American film critic (1919–2001)

Pauline Kael was an American film critic who wrote for The New Yorker magazine from 1968 to 1991. Known for her "witty, biting, highly opinionated and sharply focused" reviews, Kael's opinions often ran contrary to those of her contemporaries.

Music journalism Journalism genre

Music journalism is media criticism and reporting about music topics, including popular music, classical music, and traditional music. Journalists began writing about music in the eighteenth century, providing commentary on what is now regarded as classical music. In the 1960s, music journalism began more prominently covering popular music like rock and pop after the breakthrough of The Beatles. With the rise of the internet in the 2000s, music criticism developed an increasingly large online presence with music bloggers, aspiring music critics, and established critics supplementing print media online. Music journalism today includes reviews of songs, albums and live concerts, profiles of recording artists, and reporting of artist news and music events.

Gene Siskel American film critic

Eugene Kal Siskel was an American film critic and journalist for the Chicago Tribune. Along with colleague Roger Ebert, he hosted a series of movie review programs on television from 1975 until his death in 1999.

<i>At the Movies</i> (1986 TV program) Movie review television program

At the Movies is an American movie review television program produced by Disney–ABC Domestic Television in which two film critics share their opinions of newly released films. Its original hosts were Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, the former hosts of Sneak Previews on PBS (1975–1982) and a similarly titled syndicated series (1982–1986). Following Siskel's death in 1999, Ebert worked with various guest critics until choosing Chicago Sun-Times colleague Richard Roeper as his regular partner in 2000.

Rotten Tomatoes American review aggregator for film and television

Rotten Tomatoes is an American review-aggregation website for film and television. The company was launched in August 1998 by three undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley: Senh Duong, Patrick Y. Lee, and Stephen Wang. Although the name "Rotten Tomatoes" connects to the practice of audiences throwing rotten tomatoes when disapproving of a poor stage performance, the original inspiration comes from a scene featuring tomatoes in the Canadian film Léolo (1992).

Art criticism Discussion or evaluation of visual art

Art criticism is the discussion or evaluation of visual art. Art critics usually criticize art in the context of aesthetics or the theory of beauty. A goal of art criticism is the pursuit of a rational basis for art appreciation but it is questionable whether such criticism can transcend prevailing socio-political circumstances.

Harold Charles Schonberg was an American music critic and author. He is best known for his contributions in The New York Times, where he was chief music critic from 1960 to 1980. In 1971, he became the first music critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. An influential critic, he is particularly well known for his encouragement of Romantic piano music and criticism of conductor Leonard Bernstein. He also wrote a number of books on music, and one on chess.

Armond White is an American film and music critic who writes for National Review and Out. He was previously the editor of CityArts (2011–2014), the lead film critic for the alternative weekly New York Press (1997–2011), and the arts editor and critic for The City Sun (1984–1996). Other publications that have carried his work include Film Comment, Variety, The Nation, The New York Times, Slate, Columbia Journalism Review, and First Things.

The concept of video games as a form of art is a commonly debated topic within the entertainment industry. Though video games have been afforded legal protection as creative works by the Supreme Court of the United States, the philosophical proposition that video games are works of art remains in question, even when considering the contribution of expressive elements such as acting, visuals, stories, interaction and music. Even art games, games purposely designed to be a work of creative expression, have been challenged as works of art by some critics.

<i>Film Comment</i> American arts and culture magazine

Film Comment is an arts and culture magazine now published by the Film at Lincoln Center, of which it is the official publication. Film Comment features reviews and analysis of mainstream, art-house, and avant-garde filmmaking from around the world. Founded in 1962 and originally released as a quarterly, Film Comment began publishing on a bi-monthly basis with the Nov/Dec issue of 1972. The magazine's editorial team also hosts the annual Film Comment Selects at the Film at Lincoln Center. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, publication of the magazine was suspended in May 2020, and its website was updated on March 10, 2021, with news of the relaunch of the Film Comment podcast and a weekly letter.

Siegfried Jacobsohn German writer and influential theatre critic

Siegfried Jacobsohn was a German writer and influential theatre critic.

Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of films and the film medium. In general, film criticism can be divided into two categories: journalistic criticism which appears regularly in newspapers, magazines and other popular mass-media outlets; and academic criticism by film scholars who are informed by film theory and are published in academic journals. Academic film criticism rarely takes the form of a review; instead it is more likely to analyse the film and its place within the history of its genre, or the whole of film history.

<i>Life Itself</i> (2014 film) 2014 American film

Life Itself is a 2014 American biographical documentary film about Chicago film critic Roger Ebert, directed by Steve James and produced by Zak Piper, James and Garrett Basch. The film is based on Ebert's 2011 memoir of the same name. It premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was an official selection at the 67th Cannes Film Festival. The 41st Telluride Film Festival hosted a special screening of the film on August 28, 2014. Magnolia Pictures released the film theatrically in the United States and simultaneously via video on demand platforms on July 4, 2014.


  1. Dolan, Jill (October 24, 2012). The Feminist Spectator as Critic. University of Michigan Press. ISBN   978-0472035199.
  2. Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus, Kritikos, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott.
  3. Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus, Krites, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott.
  4. Greenberg, Clement (1961). "T.S. Eliot: A Book Review". Art and Culture – Critical Essays. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 239.
  5. Kozinn, Allan (July 27, 2003). "Harold C. Schonberg, 87, Dies; Won Pulitzer Prize as Music Critic for The Times". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved March 28, 2016.
  6. Mendelsohn, Daniel (August 28, 2012). "A Critic's Manifesto". The New Yorker. ISSN   0028-792X . Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  7. Spiegelman, Willard. "Everyone's a Critic". Wall Street Journal. ISSN   0099-9660 . Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  8. Durack, Terry (December 3, 2016). "The role of a restaurant critic in the digital age". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  9. Craven, Peter (December 16, 2015). "The Spectacle of Skill review: The genius of Robert Hughes as critic and writer". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved March 29, 2016.
  10. Sihvo, Hannes (2014). "Kivi, Aleksis (1834–1872)". The National Biography of Finland. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  11. Liukkonen, Petri (2008). "Kivi, Aleksis (1834–1872)". Authors' Calendar. Retrieved May 9, 2016.
  12. "HRW Calls for Release of Thai Government Critic". VOA. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  13. "Zambian opposition leader arrested for 'defaming' President Lungu". Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  14. Shah, Saeed; Nauman, Qasim. "Pakistanis Throng Funeral of Man Hanged for Killing Critic of Blasphemy Laws". Wall Street Journal. ISSN   0099-9660 . Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  15. "Thousands march in Moscow to honor slain Kremlin critic Nemtsov". Reuters. February 28, 2016. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  16. "Beijing Critic Says Family Detained in China in Internet Crackdown". VOA. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  17. Scott, A. O. (January 30, 2016). "Everybody's a Critic. And That's How It Should Be". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  18. Rothman, Lily. "Roger Ebert Statue Unveiled Outside Illinois Theater". Time . Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  19. "Man Arrested for Overdue Tom Green Rental From 2002". NBC News. Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  20. Child, Ben (April 25, 2014). "Statue commemorating thumbs-up film critic Roger Ebert unveiled". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved March 27, 2016.
  21. Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner (1903). "Preface to the American edition". The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. Chatto & Windus. p. ix.