Kimmelman, Michael 1958-

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Kimmelman, Michael 1958-

(Michael Simon Kimmelman)


Born May 8, 1958, in New York, NY, son of David Brown and Edythe Miriam Kimmelman; married Maria Kathleen Simson, September 10, 1988. Education: Yale University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1980; Harvard University, M.A., 1982.


Office—New York Times, 229 W. 43rd St., New York, NY 10036.


Writer, journalist. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, teaching fellow, 1982-84; Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta, GA, art critic, 1984; Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA, art critic, 1985-87; U.S. News and World Report, Washington, DC, culture editor, 1987; New York Times, New York, NY, art critic, 1988-90, chief art critic, 1990—.


Phi Beta Kappa.


Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre, and Elsewhere, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.

The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life, and Vice Versa, Penguin Press (New York, NY), 2005.


Long-time chief art critic for the New York Times Michael Kimmelman revised a series of interviews with contemporary artists and compiled them into Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre, and Elsewhere. The rationale behind this collection of portraits, which were first published individually in the New York Times, was to meet an artist at a famous museum and let the artist talk about artworks of his or her choice. Thus readers would no longer believe the false stereotype that artists are inarticulate about art and can only express themselves through their own media. Kimmelman interviewed painters, sculptors, and photographers, such as Roy Lichtenstein, Wayne Thiebaud, Jacob Lawrence, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Elizabeth Murray, Cindy Sherman, Richard Serra, Leon Golub, Nancy Spero, Brice Marden, Hans Haacke, and Chuck Close. Sometimes an artist chose a work to discuss or made comments that were unexpected given the public image of that artist. For example, Roy Lichtenstein, the father of pop art whose work is linear and boldly colored, admitted that he liked fussy and romantic paintings by eighteenth-century French painter Jean-Honore Fragonard. In preparing the articles for Portraits, Kimmelman added more background information on each artist, but overall the author put the reader in his place, as if the reader was with each artist in the museum.

The work met with critical approval. Martin R. Kalfatovic, writing in Library Journal, applauded Kimmelman's "fresh slant" on interviewing artists. Kimmelman provided "immensely satisfying object lessons" in art appreciation, declared a Publishers Weekly commentator. Likewise, a Kirkus Reviews critic described the work as "lively" and "revealing," calling the best of the interviews "surprisingly affecting." The interviews render "engaging profiles," added Donna Seaman in Booklist. Kimmelman has "expanded his original articles, deftly weaving lengthier information on the artists' own lives and work into his narrative. As a result, the pieces read less like idiosyncratic tours than, as the title indicates, portraits or profiles. This approach should prove useful for the general reader unfamiliar with many of the personalities involved, and Mr. Kimmelman does a good job of bringing both the artists and the art to life on the page," explained Robin Cembalest in the New York Times.

Several commentators had a few reservations, however. Cembalest noted that the format Kimmelman employed did not allow him to make comments by the artists understandable, if these comments were unclear. "In choosing to erase his own voice from the interviews … he has lost the ability to challenge or clarify. His deference can be frustrating," criticized Cembalest. "If there is a flaw in Portraits, it is that the pictures that illustrate each interview are in black and white and generally small," remarked Detroit Free Press book editor Linnea Lannon. "Obviously, the book would have been costlier with color, but in most cases it would have made the artists' observations even clearer to the reader." Cembalest concluded: "Though Portraits may not send readers scurrying to the galleries, there is enough here to keep them informed, entertained and more disposed to look at art in new ways."

Kimmelman presents more thoughts on art in his 2005 title, The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life, and Vice Versa, "an amiable, even breezy discussion … about the ways various artists transform their circumstances into works," as a Kirkus Reviews critic noted. In the course of ten chapters, Kimmelman discusses, among many other things, the work of the artist Pierre Bonnard, some of it inspired by his model, Marthe; a dentist with a penchant for collecting light bulbs; a little-known painter who reworked his work so often on the same canvas that in the end it weighed a ton; and a photographer who documented a 1914 expedition to the Antarctic. A Publishers Weekly contributor thought the author "delivers an uplifting art-is-good-for-you message," while the Kirkus Reviews critic similarly concluded, "ebullient brightness permeates these pages." Writing in Newsweek International, Peter Plagens felt Kimmelman "engagingly examines art matters." More praise came from Library Journal contributor Cheryl Ann Lajos, who called the collection of essays "thought-provoking and uniquely awesome." Trey Popp, reviewing The Accidental Masterpiece in the San Francisco Chronicle, found it "consistently enlightening, often humorous and an occasionally exhilarating adventure."



Artnews, September, 1998, Rex Weil, review of Portraits: Talking with Artists at the Met, the Modern, the Louvre, and Elsewhere, p. 132; September, 2005, David Ayers, review of The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa, p. 92.

Booklist, August 19, 1998, Donna Seaman, review of Portraits, p. 1950; August, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of The Accidental Masterpiece, p. 1980.

Boston Globe, August 7, 2005, Barbara Fisher, review of The Accidental Masterpiece.

Detroit Free Press, August 16, 1998, Linnea Lannon, review of Portraits, p. 7H.

Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 1998, review of Portraits, p. 873; May 15, 2005, review of The Accidental Masterpiece, p. 576.

Library Journal, July, 1998, Martin R. Kalfatovic, review of Portraits, pp. 86-88; June 1, 2005, Cheryl Ann Lajos, review of The Accidental Masterpiece, p. 126.

Nation, November 7, 2005, Hal Foster, "How Art Can Save Your Life," review of The Accidental Masterpiece, p. 38.

Newsweek International, September 26, 2005, Peter Plagens, "Ways of Looking," review of The Accidental Masterpiece, p. 101.

New York Review of Books, September 2, 2005, Adam Phillips, "Art Ahead: Linger for a While, Look and Tell the Story"; December 1, 2005, Richard Dorment, "What Art Does," review of The Accidental Masterpiece, p. 21.

New York Times, August 24, 1998, Robin Cembalest, review of Portraits, p. E6.

New York Times Book Review, October 4, 1998, David Cohen, review of Portraits, p. 38; September 4, 2005, Adrian Searle, review of The Accidental Masterpiece, p. 13.

Publishers Weekly, June 15, 1998, review of Portraits, p. 48; May 16, 2005, review of The Accidental Masterpiece, p. 49.

San Francisco Chronicle, August 21, 2005, Trey Popp, review of The Accidental Masterpiece.

Washington Post Book World, September 25, 2005, Jonathan Keats, "On Beauty," review of The Accidental Masterpiece, p. 8.


Indiana Conversations, (November 20, 2006), "Michael Kimmelman and Betsy Stirratt."

New York Review of Books Online, (November 26, 2006), "Michael Kimmelman."

New York Times Web site, (November 20, 2006), "Recent and Archived News Articles by Michael Kimmelman."