ROBERT von HALLBERG
Everyone knows the remark by Williams that if canvases were less cumbersome, he might have been a painter rather than a poet. Williams earnestly believed that more than any other art painting held the power to change modern culture. One of his many criticisms of his friend Ezra Pound was that the expatriate "missed the major impact of his age" largely because of his insensitivity to painting…. Bram Dijkstra has assembled a fine volume of Williams's writings on art [William Carlos Williams on Art and Artists], including essays on Walker Evans, Charles Sheeler, Marsden Hartley, Alfred Stieglitz, Bosch, John Marin, Brancusi, and others…. Many of these essays concern American artists, which is just what would be expected from the champion of the American Idiom and the Local. However, the truth is … that Williams pretended to greater naiveté than he possessed. His taste in painting was distinctly European; this was the taste of his generation. (pp. 500-01)
As an art critic, Williams's ability was limited. The essays in this volume are not extraordinary for what they say about particular painters or paintings…. [Rather, the] most important essays in this book—"Art and Politics: The Editorship of Blast" (1933), "Revolutions Revalued: The Attack on Credit Monopoly from a Cultural Viewpoint" (1936), "Woman as Operator" (1948), and "The Portrait: Emmanuel Romano" (1966)—are focused on issues that go way beyond the...
(The entire section is 521 words.)