Leo Steinberg  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Leo Steinberg (July 9, 1920 – March 13, 2011) was an American art critic and art historian and a naturalized citizen of the U.S. He was the son of Isaac Nachman Steinberg.

Steinberg has won literary awards as well as awards for his criticism. He was professor of the History of Art at Hunter College, and is a Benjamin Franklin and University Professor of the History of Art, Emeritus, at the University of Pennsylvania. Steinberg is known for his work in several areas of Art History, notably Renaissance art and Modernism.

In 1972, Steinberg introduced the idea of the "flatbed picture plane" in his book, Other Criteria, a collection of essays on artists including Jackson Pollock, Pablo Ruiz Picasso, Phillip Guston, Robert Rauschenberg, and Willem de Kooning.

The whole of the Summer, 1983, issue of October was dedicated to Steinberg's essay The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, later published as a book by Random House. In that essay, Steinberg examined a previously ignored pattern in Renaissance art: the prominent display of the genitals of the infant Christ, and the attention drawn again to that area in images of Christ near the end of his life.

In Tom Wolfe's 1975 book, The Painted Word, Steinberg was labelled one of the "kings of Cultureburg" for the enormous degree of influence that his criticism, along with that of other "kings," Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg, exerted over the world of modern art at the time. However, Steinberg, who originally trained as an artist but earned a PhD in Art History, moved away from art criticism, concentrating on academic art-historical studies of such artists and architects as Borromini, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci.

In 1995-1996 Steinberg was a professor at Harvard University.


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