Flam, Jack D(onald) 1940-
FLAM, Jack D(onald) 1940-
PERSONAL: Born April 2, 1940, in Paterson, NJ; son of Max and Rose Leila (Silverberg) Flam; married Bonnie Suzanne Burnham, October 7, 1972 (divorced); children: Laura Rose. Education: Rutgers University, B.A., 1961; Columbia University, M.A., 1963; New York University, Ph.D., 1969.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—Department of Art, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Bedford Ave., Suite H, Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889. Agent— Georges Borchardt Inc., 136 East 57th St., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, instructor in art, 1963-66; University of Florida, Gainesville, assistant professor, 1966-69, associate professor of art, 1969-72; Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, associate professor, 1975-80, professor, 1980-90, Distinguished Professor of Art History, 1991—. Graduate Center of the City University of New York, professor, 1975-91, Distinguished Professor of Art History, 1991—.
MEMBER: International PEN, International Association of Art Critics, College Art Association of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Guggenheim fellowship, 1979-80; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, 1987-88; Pulitzer Prize nomination, for Matisse: The Man and His Art, 1869-1918.
(Editor) Matisse on Art, Phaidon Press (New York, NY), 1973.
Zoltan Gorency (novel), Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1974.
Bread and Butter (novel), Viking (New York, NY), 1977.
(With Jack Cowart, Dominique Fourcade, and John Hallmark Neff) Henri Matisse Paper Cut-Outs, Abrams (New York, NY), 1978.
(With Dore Ashton) Robert Motherwell, Abbeville (New York, NY), 1981.
Matisse: The Man and His Art, 1869-1918, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 1986.
(Editor) Matisse: A Retrospective, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1988.
Motherwell, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1991.
Richard Diebenkorn: Ocean Park, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1993.
Matisse: The Dance, National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), 1993.
(With Daniel Shapiro) Western Artists/African Art, Museum for African Art (New York, NY), 1994.
Judith Rothschild: An Artist's Search, Hudson Hills Press (New York, NY), 1998.
(With others) New York Collects: Drawings and Watercolors, 1900-1950, Pierpont Morgan Library (New York, NY), 1999.
Matisse in the Cone Collection: The Poetics of Vision, Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore, MD), 2001.
(Editor and author of introduction) Primitivism and Twentieth-Century Art: A Documentary History, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2003.
Matisse and Picasso: The Story of Their Rivalry and Friendship, Artists Rights Society (New York, NY), 2003.
Coeditor of Documents of 20th Century Art. Contributor to books, including The PaineWebber Art Collection, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1995; and Powerful Expressions: Recent American Drawings, National Academy of Design (New York, NY), 1996. Art critic, Wall Street Journal, 1984-92. Contributor to journals, including New York Review of Books.
SIDELIGHTS: Jack D. Flam once told CA that he has "written on a broad range of subjects." In addition to writing novels, translating French poetry, and contributing to several periodicals, Flam has generated debate on the career of artist Henri Matisse through work on five biographical sources. Flam served as the editor of the volumes Matisse on Art and Matisse: A Retrospective, as a coauthor of Henri Matisse Paper Cut-Outs, and as the author of Matisse: The Man and His Art, 1869-1918, and Matisse: The Dance.
In the New York Times Book Review, Robert Motherwell commented on two of Flam's biographical works—Matisse on Art and Henri Matisse Paper Cut-Outs—noting that "Flam has edited Matisse . . . tolerantly, with close translation . . . , admirable editorial introductions and detailed notes to the 44 brief pieces from 47 years." A later work by Flam, Matisse: The Man and His Art, 1869-1918, was deemed a "detailed, penetrating and beautifully assembled study" by Richard Eder in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. In many respects, however, the work ignited Matisse scholars. Jed Perl took great exception to its revisionist interpretations. In the New York Times BookReview, Perl defended the more traditional theories about the artist, suggesting that Flam's work never really takes the reader as close to its subject as its title suggests.
Others embraced Flam's "[correction] of the critical misperception of the artist as merely a colorful decorator," as Eder described it in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. Eder's comments seemed to represent those who felt, as the critic said, that "although the book gives essential biographical data, its emphasis and its value lie in Flam's ardent and often inspired writing about Matisse's work." Norman Bryson wrote in the Times Literary Supplement that Matisse: The Man and His Art "contains much insight and valuable analysis (as well as superb reproductions)." In Bryson's opinion, the volume is of central importance to any study of Matisse: "It will replace Alfred H. Barr's Matisse, His Art and His Public (1951)," the critic predicted, "as the essential monograph in English for the painter's early career."
Flam continued to challenge the art world with the publication of Matisse: A Retrospective, a compendium of criticism and illustrations that Flam compiled and edited. Although a critic in the New York Times Book Review questioned the need for the book, which the reviewer suggested broke no new ground and provided overly familiar artwork, a contributor to Publishers Weekly noted that Matisse: A Retrospective is worthwhile, combining "excellent color plates with writings . . . by critics of [Matisse's] day."
Flam also coauthored a catalogue about Robert Motherwell, who had—three years prior to the publication of the work in 1981—critiqued Flam's work on Matisse in the New York Times Book Review. According to Simon Morley in the Times Literary Supplement, Motherwell was "the most prominent spokesman for and one of the most ambitious painters of the heroic generation of Abstract Expressionists who transformed American art into the most significant art of our time." After Motherwell's death in 1991, Flam published Motherwell, an extended study of the artist's life and work. Morley concluded that Flam's concern in writing the book was not solely in conveying the details of his subject's life, but in "writing an intellectual biography and . . . [placing] Motherwell within the context of the history of ideas in the twentieth century."
Flam explored the paintings of a thoroughly twentieth-century artist in Richard Diebenkorn: Ocean Park, yet Matisse's influence can be seen in this volume as well. In lieu of comparing Diebenkorn's work to that of his contemporaries, as a Publishers Weekly commentator explained, Flam analyzes the impact of Matisse on the abstract "Ocean Park" series of paintings produced beginning in the late 1960s by the man the magazine noted has "widely been regarded as a modern master."
Flam also received praise for his works of fiction. In the opinion of a Times Literary Supplement reviewer, "one of the most striking aspects of his first novel," Zoltan Gorency, "is its ring of absolute authenticity." The story of a Hungarian emigré in Paris struck the critic as a promising work despite a lack of technical sophistication. Bread and Butter is a "road" novel in which twenty-five-year-old Sam drops out of school, sets out on the highway, and becomes involved with a woman who soon embroils him in seduction, blackmail, and drug smuggling. "Flam's novel is a bitter, authentic portrait of a society where predators and victims feed off one another in a macabre, ritualized dance," Jerome Charyn noted in the New York Times Book Review.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Art History, June, 1997, Timothy D. Martin, review of Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings, p. 342.
Art Journal, summer, 1996, Suzaan Boettger, review of Robert Smithson, p. 95.
ARTnews, January, 1994, Yves-Alain Bois, review of Matisse: The Dance, p. 107; November, 2001, Hilarie M. Sheets, review of Matisse in the Cone Collection: The Poetics of Vision, p. 140.
Booklist, September 1, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of Judith Rothschild: An Artist's Search, p. 47.
Bookwatch, October, 1998, review of Judith Rothschild, p. 4.
Choice, December, 1994, C. Pascoe, review of Matisse: The Dance, p. 586; December, 1998, review of Judith Rothschild, p. 674.
Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, winter, 1998, Gary Shapiro, review of Robert Smithson, p. 76.
Library Journal, August, 1999, Sandra Rothenberg, review of New York Collects: Drawings and Watercolors, 1900-1950, p. 82.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 14, 1986, Richard Eder, review of Matisse: The Man and His Art, 1869-1918, pp. 3, 9; October 11, 1987, p. 5.
New York Times Book Review, September 11, 1977, Jerome Charyn, review of Bread and Butter, p. 51; June 4, 1978, review by Robert Motherwell, p. 12; December 28, 1986, Jed Perl, review of Matisse: The Man and His Art, 1869-1918, pp. 13-14; December 4, 1988, John Russell, review of Matisse: A Retrospective, p. 84.
Publishers Weekly, October 21, 1988, review of Matisse: A Retrospective, p. 42; March 15, 1993, review of Richard Diebenkorn: Ocean Park, p. 80.
Reference and Research Book News, November, 1998, review of Judith Rothschild, p. 180.
Times Literary Supplement, July 26, 1974, review of Zoltan Gorency, p. 813; March 27, 1987, Norman Bryson, review of Matisse: The Man and His Art, p. 328; March 27, 1992, Simon Morley, review of Motherwell, p. 17.*