Royal Cortissoz

Last updated

Royal Cortissoz, 1920 Royal Cortissoz 2.jpg
Royal Cortissoz, 1920

Royal Cortissoz (February 10, 1869 – October 17, 1948, last name pronounced "Kor-tee-zus" [1] ) was an American art historian and long-time art critic for the New York Herald Tribune from 1891 until his death. During his tenure, he consistently championed traditionalism and decried modernism. [2] Of the latter, he once wrote, "It will someday prove a kind of Victorian 'dud,' with a difference, obviously, but a 'dud' just the same." [3] In addition to his work as a critic, he penned the inscription above the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial: "In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the Union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever." [4]

United States federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 18 megadiverse countries.

Art history the academic study of objects of art in their historical development

Art history is the study of objects of art in their historical development and stylistic contexts; that is genre, design, format, and style. The study includes painting, sculpture, architecture, ceramics, furniture, and other decorative objects.

Art critic person who specializes in evaluating art

An art critic is a person who is specialized in analyzing, interpreting and evaluating art. Their written critiques or reviews contribute to art criticism and they are published in newspapers, magazines, books, exhibition brochures and catalogues and on web sites. Some of today's art critics use art blogs and other online platforms in order to connect with a wider audience and expand debate about art.


Early life

Cortissoz was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Francisco Emmanuel Cortissoz, an Englishman of Spanish descent, and Julia da Costa Mauri, from Martinique. He trained as an architect, spending six years working at the firm of McKim, Mead, and White, starting at the age of 16, before joining the staff of the Commercial Advertiser . In 1891, he joined the staff of the New York Tribune , writing on culture, and eventually became the art editor. He had been interested in art as a young child, but never formally studied or practiced it, instead having skill with words, thus leading to career as an art critic, in his own words, "by spontaneous combustion". [5] However, the hectic life of a journalist and the pressure of trying to establish the Tribune as a cultural leader led to a mental breakdown, or neurasthenia as he was diagnosed. Although he soon recovered after a trip around Cape Horn, he suffered from anxiety and psychosomatic ailments for the remainder of his life. [6]

Brooklyn Borough in New York City and county in New York state, United States

Brooklyn is the most populous borough of New York City, with an estimated 2,648,771 residents in 2017. Named after the Dutch village of Breukelen, it borders the borough of Queens at the western end of Long Island. Brooklyn has several bridge and tunnel connections to the borough of Manhattan across the East River, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects Staten Island. Since 1896, Brooklyn has been coterminous with Kings County, the most populous county in the U.S. state of New York and the second-most densely populated county in the United States, after New York County.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, often called New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York City is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Work as a critic

As a critic, Cortissoz saw his role to be one who fosters an appreciation of art in the common man, and not just paintings. He wrote extensively about jewelry, rare book designs, architecture, furniture, and interior design. He considered art as a whole to be central to society's well-being. He also frequently remarked that beauty could be found anywhere. [7] Cortissoz was so influential that his praise was eagerly sought by artists, [1] and the organizers of the landmark 1913 Armory Show were worried about what he might think. [8]

Architecture both the process and product of planning, designing and construction

Architecture is both the process and the product of planning, designing, and constructing buildings or any other structures. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural symbols and as works of art. Historical civilizations are often identified with their surviving architectural achievements.

Furniture movable objects intended to support various human activities

Furniture refers to movable objects intended to support various human activities such as seating, eating (tables), and sleeping. Furniture is also used to hold objects at a convenient height for work, or to store things. Furniture can be a product of design and is considered a form of decorative art. In addition to furniture's functional role, it can serve a symbolic or religious purpose. It can be made from many materials, including metal, plastic, and wood. Furniture can be made using a variety of woodworking joints which often reflect the local culture.

Interior design art and science of enhancing the interiors, sometimes including the exterior, of a space or building, to achieve a healthier and more aesthetically pleasing environment for the end user

Interior design is the art and science of enhancing the interior of a building to achieve a healthier and more aesthetically pleasing environment for the people using the space. An interior designer is someone who plans, researches, coordinates, and manages such projects. Interior design is a multifaceted profession that includes conceptual development, space planning, site inspections, programming, research, communicating with the stakeholders of a project, construction management, and execution of the design.

Cortissoz argued against modernism on both technical and cultural grounds. He found abstract art to be ugly and rejected modernism's idea that the work did not have to represent reality. In 1923, he drew a comparison between the surge of prominent European modernists arriving on American shores with the hot button issue of immigration, coining the derisive term "Ellis Island art" in an attempt to denigrate the newcomers' rising status in the art world. (The term did not catch on.) [9] He also detested modernists' tendency to be dismissive of the past and of those who disliked their work. This attitude, Cortissoz felt, would cause people to associate art with the irrational and bizarre and thus lose interest. [10] Over the years, Cortissoz criticized in this manner Cubism, German Expressionism, Dada, Surrealism, and abstract expressionism. He felt artists attached to these movements, such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Vincent van Gogh, and Piet Mondrian were egotists. In 1927, he wrote, "Sooner or later these silly egotists will go to the scrap heap. But in the meantime they are ruining the younger generation." [11] He did, however, have praise for American modernists who used traditional techniques, such as Arthur B. Davies, Guy Pène du Bois, and Georgia O'Keeffe.[ citation needed ]

Abstract art art with a degree of independence from visual references in the world

Abstract art uses a visual language of shape, form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Western art had been, from the Renaissance up to the middle of the 19th century, underpinned by the logic of perspective and an attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible reality. The arts of cultures other than the European had become accessible and showed alternative ways of describing visual experience to the artist. By the end of the 19th century many artists felt a need to create a new kind of art which would encompass the fundamental changes taking place in technology, science and philosophy. The sources from which individual artists drew their theoretical arguments were diverse, and reflected the social and intellectual preoccupations in all areas of Western culture at that time.

Ellis Island island in New York Harbor in the United States of America

Ellis Island, in Upper New York Bay, was the gateway for over 12 million immigrants to the U.S. as the United States' busiest immigrant inspection station for over 60 years from 1892 until 1954. Ellis Island was opened January 1, 1892. The island was greatly expanded with land reclamation between 1892 and 1934. Before that, the much smaller original island was the site of Fort Gibson and later a naval magazine. The island was made part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965 and has hosted a museum of immigration since 1990.

Cubism early-20th-century avant-garde art movement

Cubism is an early-20th-century avant-garde art movement that revolutionized European painting and sculpture, and inspired related movements in music, literature and architecture. Cubism has been considered the most influential art movement of the 20th century. The term is broadly used in association with a wide variety of art produced in Paris during the 1910s and throughout the 1920s.

Personal life

In 1897, Cortissoz married Ellen MacKay Hutchinson, a literary editor at the Tribune. She died in August 1933, and the couple had no children. Cortissoz died of a heart ailment in Manhattan. [1]

Honors and affiliations

Wesleyan University private liberal arts college in Middletown, Connecticut

Wesleyan University is a private liberal arts college in Middletown, Connecticut. Founded in 1831, Wesleyan is a baccalaureate college that emphasizes undergraduate instruction in the arts and sciences, grants research master's degrees in many academic disciplines, and grants PhD degrees in biology, chemistry, mathematics and computer science, molecular biology and biochemistry, music, and physics.

Order of Leopold (Belgium) Belgian national honorary order of knighthood

The Order of Leopold is one of the three current Belgian national honorary orders of knighthood. It is the oldest and highest order of Belgium and is named in honour of its founder; King Leopold I. It consists of a military, a maritime and a civil division. The maritime division is only awarded to personnel of the merchant navy, and the military division to military personnel. The decoration was established on 11 July 1832 and is awarded by Royal order.

American Academy in Rome Research center , Arts institution in New York City, United States

The American Academy in Rome is a research and arts institution located on the Gianicolo in Rome. The academy is a member of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers.

Partial bibliography

Source: Works by Royal Cortissoz in WorldCat

Related Research Articles

Modernism movement of art, culture and philosophy

Modernism is a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors that shaped modernism were the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by reactions of horror to World War I. Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and many modernists rejected religious belief.

Expressionism modernist art movement

Expressionism is a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas. Expressionist artists have sought to express the meaning of emotional experience rather than physical reality.

Clement Greenberg American writer and artist

Clement Greenberg, occasionally writing under the pseudonym K. Hardesh, was an American essayist known mainly as an influential visual art critic closely associated with American Modern art of the mid-20th century and a Formalist aesthetician. In particular, he is best remembered for his promotion of the abstract expressionist movement and was among the first published critics to praise the work of painter Jackson Pollock.

Postmodern art is a body of art movements that sought to contradict some aspects of modernism or some aspects that emerged or developed in its aftermath. In general, movements such as intermedia, installation art, conceptual art and multimedia, particularly involving video are described as postmodern.

Art movement tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, possibly associated with a specific historical period

An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a restricted period of time, or, at least, with the heyday of the movement defined within a number of years. Art movements were especially important in modern art, when each consecutive movement was considered as a new avant-garde.

Modern architecture broad type of architecture

Modern architecture, or modernist architecture was based upon new and innovative technologies of construction, particularly the use of glass, steel and reinforced concrete; the idea that form should follow function; an embrace of minimalism; and a rejection of ornament. It emerged in the first half of the 20th century and became dominant after World War II until the 1980s, when it was gradually replaced as the principal style for institutional and corporate buildings by postmodern architecture.

Modernism (music) philosophicoesthetic stance, part of the modernist movement, underlying the change/development in musical language in the early 20th century, challenging/reinterpreting older music with new organization/approach to harmony, melody, timbre, and rhythm

In music, modernism is a philosophical and aesthetic stance underlying the period of change and development in musical language that occurred around the turn of the 20th century, a period of diverse reactions in challenging and reinterpreting older categories of music, innovations that led to new ways of organizing and approaching harmonic, melodic, sonic, and rhythmic aspects of music, and changes in aesthetic worldviews in close relation to the larger identifiable period of modernism in the arts of the time. The operative word most associated with it is "innovation". Its leading feature is a "linguistic plurality", which is to say that no one music genre ever assumed a dominant position.

Inherent within musical modernism is the conviction that music is not a static phenomenon defined by timeless truths and classical principles, but rather something which is intrinsically historical and developmental. While belief in musical progress or in the principle of innovation is not new or unique to modernism, such values are particularly important within modernist aesthetic stances.

Modernist poetry refers to poetry written, mainly in Europe and North America, between 1890 and 1950 in the tradition of modernist literature, but the dates of the term depend upon a number of factors, including the nation of origin, the particular school in question, and the biases of the critic setting the dates. The critic/poet C. H. Sisson observed in his essay Poetry and Sincerity that "Modernity has been going on for a long time. Not within living memory has there ever been a day when young writers were not coming up, in a threat of iconoclasm."

Charles Jencks Architecture theorist, critic and landscape architect

Charles Alexander Jencks is a cultural theorist, landscape designer, architectural historian, and co-founder of the Maggie’s Cancer Care Centres. He has published over thirty books and became famous in the 1980s as theorist of Postmodernism. In recent years Jencks has devoted time to landform architecture, especially in Scotland. These landscapes include the Garden of Cosmic Speculation and earthworks at Jupiter Artland outside Edinburgh. His continuing project Crawick Multiverse, commissioned by the Duke of Buccleuch, opened in 2015 near Sanquhar.

Walt Kuhn American painter

Walter Francis Kuhn was an American painter and an organizer of the famous Armory Show of 1913, which was America's first large-scale introduction to European Modernism.

Literary modernism, or modernist literature, has its origins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, mainly in Europe and North America, and is characterized by a very self-conscious break with traditional ways of writing, in both poetry and prose fiction. Modernists experimented with literary form and expression, as exemplified by Ezra Pound's maxim to "Make it new." This literary movement was driven by a conscious desire to overturn traditional modes of representation and express the new sensibilities of their time. The horrors of the First World War saw the prevailing assumptions about society reassessed.

The year 1948 in art involved some significant events and new works.

Deconstructivism is a movement of postmodern architecture which appeared in the 1980s, which gives the impression of the fragmentation of the constructed building. It is characterized by an absence of harmony, continuity, or symmetry. Its name comes from the idea of "Deconstruction", a form of semiotic analysis developed by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. Architects whose work is often described as deconstructionism include Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Bernard Tschumi, and Coop Himmelb(l)au.

In the visual arts, late modernism encompasses the overall production of most recent art made between the aftermath of World War II and the early years of the 21st century. The terminology often points to similarities between late modernism and post-modernism although there are differences. The predominant term for art produced since the 1950s is contemporary art. Not all art labelled as contemporary art is modernist or post-modern, and the broader term encompasses both artists who continue to work in modern and late modernist traditions, as well as artists who reject modernism for post-modernism or other reasons. Arthur Danto argues explicitly in After the End of Art that contemporaneity was the broader term, and that postmodern objects represent a subsector of the contemporary movement which replaced modernity and modernism, while other notable critics: Hilton Kramer, Robert C. Morgan, Kirk Varnedoe, Jean-François Lyotard and others have argued that postmodern objects are at best relative to modernist works.

American Abstract Artists (AAA) was formed in 1936 in New York City, to promote and foster public understanding of abstract art. American Abstract Artists exhibitions, publications, and lectures helped to establish the organization as a major forum for the exchange and discussion of ideas, and for presenting abstract art to a broader public. The American Abstract Artists group contributed to the development and acceptance of abstract art in the United States and has a historic role in its avant-garde. It is one of the few artists’ organizations to survive from the Great Depression and continue into the 21st century.

Honoré Desmond Sharrer was an American artist. She first received public acclaim in 1950 for her painting Tribute to the American Working People, a five-image polyptych conceived in the form of a Renaissance altarpiece, except that its central figure is a factory worker and not a saint. Flanking this central figure are smaller scenes of ordinary people—at a picnic, in a parlor, on a farm and in the schoolroom. Meticulously painted in oil on composition board in a style and color palette reminiscent of the Flemish masters, the finished work is more than six feet long and three feet high and took her five years to complete. It was the subject of a 2007 retrospective at the Smithsonian Institution and is part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

American Figurative Expressionism American art movement

American Figurative Expressionism is a 20th-century visual art style or movement that first took hold in Boston, and later spread throughout the United States. Critics dating back to the origins of Expressionism have often found it hard to define./ One description, however, classifies it as a Humanist philosophy, since it's human-centered and rationalist. Its formal approach to the handling of paint and space is often considered a defining feature, too, as is its radical, rather than reactionary, commitment to the figure.

David Aronson American painter

David Aronson was a painter and Professor of Art at Boston University.

Maud (Cabot) Morgan was an American modern artist and teacher who is best known for her abstract expressionism. She mentored Frank Stella and Carl Andre, and had art pieces shown alongside such notable contemporaries as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Morgan's life began in New York City to an aristocratic family. She was also known as Boston's Modernist Doyenne.

Sam Himmelfarb was a Latvian-born, American artist and commercial exhibit designer, known for his modernist-influenced paintings of everyday people and urban scenes. He also designed the Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Samuel and Eleanor Himmelfarb Home and Studio in Winfield, Illinois, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Himmelfarb studied art at the Art Students League and National Academy of Design in New York and at the Wisconsin School of Fine and Applied Arts. He initially painted in a realist style influenced by the Ashcan School, which gave way to more modernist, increasingly abstract styles. His paintings appeared in exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC), Terra Museum of American Art, Milwaukee Art Institute, and Arts Club of Chicago, and in circulating shows from the American Federation of Arts, among other venues. He received awards from the AIC, Wisconsin State Fair and Milwaukee Art Museum, and his work belongs to the collection of the latter, and those of the Illinois State Museum, Block Museum, and Arkansas Art Center, among others. Himmelfarb was married to the artist and educator, Eleanor Himmelfarb (1910-2009); their son, John Himmelfarb, and granddaughter, Serena, are also artists.



  1. 1 2 3 "Royal Cortissoz, Art Critic, 79, Dies". The New York Times . October 18, 1948.
  2. "Milestones". Time . October 25, 1948. Retrieved November 19, 2008.(subscription required)
  3. "Sterile Modernism". Time . March 10, 1930. Retrieved November 19, 2008.(subscription required)
  4. "Lincoln Memorial Builders". National Park Service . Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  5. Morgan 1989, p. 64.
  6. Morgan 1989, p. 65.
  7. Morgan 1989, p. 68.
  8. Morgan 1989, p. 77.
  9. Tom, Wolfe (1976). The Painted Word . Bantam Books. p. 29. ISBN   0553273795. OCLC   2506019.
  10. Morgan 1989, p. 80.
  11. Morgan 1989, p. 84.
  12. Wesleyan University Bulletin. Wesleyan University. 1927. p. 167. Retrieved January 9, 2018. The Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters was conferred on: Royal Cortissoz, New York City.
  13. "Behind the Scenes". Scribner's Magazine. Vol. LXXXII. C. Scribner's sons. December 1927. p. 642c. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  14. "Search Results". The American Academy of Arts and Letters. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  15. "Historical Trustee List" (PDF). American Academy in Rome. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  16. American Architect and Architecture. J. R. Osgood & Company. 1928. p. 722. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  17. "Index to the Bulletin" (PDF). The Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. xx. 1925. p. 6. Retrieved January 9, 2018.
  18. "Cortissoz Gets Medal". Los Angeles Times. November 29, 1931. p. 38. Retrieved January 9, 2018. (subscription required)