Marquis, Alice Goldfarb 1930-

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Marquis, Alice Goldfarb 1930-


Born March 30, 1930, in Munich, Germany; came to U.S. in 1938, naturalized U.S. citizen, 1943; daughter of Erwin and Emma (a designer) Goldfarb; married Lowell Blankfort, June 26, 1949 (divorced, March, 1973); children: Jonathan Blankfort. Education: San Diego State University, B.A, 1966, M.A, 1969; University of CaliforniaSan Diego, Ph.D, 1978. Politics: Independent. Religion: Jewish.


Home and office—8963 Caminito Fresco, La Jolla, CA 92037. E-mail—[email protected].


Pacifica California Tribune, copublisher, 1954-59; Star-News, Chula Vista, CA, copublisher, 1961-72; University of California—San Diego, instructor in writing, 1976-78, visiting history scholar, 1978—; historian, writer, and researcher, 1981—. San Diego County Planning Commission member, 1972-76; San Diego Independent Scholars, founder, 1983—.


American Historical Association, Popular Culture Association.


Suburban Journalist of the Year citation, Suburban Newspapers of America, 1972; Best Nonfiction award, San Diego Book Awards, 1996.


Marcel Duchamp: Eros, c'est la vie, Whitston (Troy, NY), 1981.

Hopes and Ashes: The Birth of Modern Times, Free Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Alfred H. Barr, Jr.: Missionary for the Modern, Contemporary Books (Chicago, IL), 1989.

The Art Biz: The Covert World of Collectors, Dealers, Auction Houses, Museums, and Critics, Contemporary Books (Chicago, IL), 1991.

Art Lessons: Learning from the Rise and Fall of Public Arts Funding, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Marcel Duchamp: The Bachelor Stripped Bare, Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA), 2001.

Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg—A Biography, Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA), 2006.

Contributor to history journals and other periodicals, including the Nation and American Heritage.


"Having been a child refugee from Nazi persecution of Jews was my major motivation for becoming a historian," Alice Goldfarb Marquis once told CA. "The experiences of my early childhood in Nazi Germany left me with a permanent internal question mark: What happened? Why? How could a civilized world produce such horrors? Having escaped into a relatively comfortable life, I have always felt the need to contribute what I could to contemporary culture: call it survivors' guilt, if you will. To that end, I have attempted to use what writing talent I have to write about the opposite of what the Nazis did—art and culture, not destruction and death.

"As a journalist for almost two decades, I was especially involved with investigative articles and found myself increasingly frustrated by the space and time constraints inherent in newspaper and magazine work. Therefore, I seized the opportunity to work toward a Ph.D. in Modern European History at University of California at San Diego, especially to work under H. Stuart Hughes, one of America's most eminent historians. Degree in hand, I wondered whether a historian could function purely as a writer, without an academic teaching post. Luckily, I have encountered no problems in getting my work published in scholarly periodicals and I revel in being able to work year-round on writing projects which academics must squeeze into vacations and sabbaticals. As a historian committed to writing, some of my principal models are Barbara Tuchman, Fernand Braudel, William L. Shirer, and Alistair Horne.

"My major interest professionally is in twentieth-century culture, including not only art, music, and literature, but radio, movies, magazines, advertising, and other human expressions. I speak French and German and can thus pursue research in Europe. Though my studies were in European History, I prefer to see contemporary culture as spanning both sides of the Atlantic.

"Traveling is one of my major delights, not only to exotic, distant lands, but to the hinterlands of the United States. The cowboy bars of eastern Idaho and the truck stops off Interstate 15 have provided me with some delightful insights and memories.

"Sports I enjoy regularly are tennis, jazz exercise, skiing, and boogie-boarding (a tame version of surfing), and I feel strongly that because writing is such a lonely, sedentary profession, I must strive always to include vigorous physical activity and socializing in my day. I also draw and paint and am especially engrossed in doing experimental stained glass sculptures."

Marquis published her second biography of Marcel Duchamp in 2002. It is said of Duchamp that he is arguably the most influential artist of the twentieth century, a character a Publishers Weekly critic called a "stimulating gadfly" in the American world of art. Duchamp, who lived from 1887 to 1968, was a powerful and persuasive presence among artists. The son of a successful notary, he was extremely particular about his image, manipulating the way the world perceived him by creating a persona around that image. The Publishers Weekly critic wrote that Duchamp "is the subject of an enormous critical industry and produced an alarming amount of primary source material in his own prose and interviews." Marquis received critical acclaim for her portrayal of this artist and critic—for diligently sifting through the myriad of historical documents, examining the plethora of personal relationships he maintained with artists, collectors, lovers, and family, and separating the man from the myth. The Publishers Weekly critic called Marquis's biography a "sane and sensible guide to the continually puzzling paradox of Duchamp."

Art Lessons: Learning from the Rise and Fall of Public Arts Funding tells the story of how the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) changed the post-World War II art scene in the United States. The book, explained Eric Gibson in Insight on the News, is "the definitive history of what can only be called the tragedy of government arts funding. Marquis charts the NEA's birth in a blaze of idealism (mixed, to be sure, with a certain amount of political calculation) and its decline into a bureaucratic morass of entrenched oligarchies and calculating self-interest." Marquis's thesis, declared Donna Seaman in Booklist, can be summed up like this: "If art is so noble and wonderful, why, she muses, are art bureaucracies so acrimonious, political, pompous, and inept?"

For the first two decades of its existence, the NEA, with a minimum of controversy, served as a source of funding for works of art throughout the United States. It also, Marquis points out, gave politicians a ready supply of public money that they could distribute to budding artists in their local districts—allowing them to make political capital out of public funds. This "explains why, for the first twenty years of the endowment, it was good politics for both Republicans and Democrats to support it. Only in the 1980's did such support become bad politics," declared New York Times Book Review contributor Martha Bayles. "To her credit," Bayles added, "Ms. Marquis does not simply blame the Republicans—indeed, she recalls that money for the arts continued to rise steeply under President Richard M. Nixon. Rather, she observes that during the Reagan years ‘a self-styled avant-garde’ began ‘thrusting itself into media attention with strident political and sexual ‘art.’’" "The endowment's liberal defenders argue that, under the NEA, the arts have helped to reverse decades of urban decline and to bring self-esteem to the disadvantaged," stated a Wilson Quarterly critic. "To the left …, many avant-garde artists simply view NEA funding as their due; denial of a fellowship, in their opinion, amounts to government censorship." To replace this culture of politicized art, Marquis "spells out a revolutionary blueprint for democratizing public support for the arts," explained a contributor to Publishers Weekly, in which professional art managers or impresarios would design public art to fill public space.

In Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg, Marquis traces the life story of the highly influential art critic best remembered for his promotion of the modernist artist Jackson Pollock. "When he later wrote with similar enthusiasm about ‘color-field’ abstractionists like Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Jules Olitski," Terry Teachout stated in Commentary, "museum curators and collectors responded to his cue, and those painters, like the New York School before them, moved into the spotlight of renown." At the same time, however, recorded Ann Loftin in the Wilson Quarterly, he "was a terrible, terrible man. He socked people at cocktail parties, neglected his wives and children, whinged through an abbreviated tour of military duty, tormented his comfortably middle-class parents, scorned low-class ‘Jews that wear jewelry,’ bullied and manipulated his friends. He was a selfish, lying, cheating, arrogant, lazy, misogynistic SOB." "Marquis," Teachout remarked, "is rightly unsparing in cataloguing Greenberg's personal failings, I detect no malice in her portrait of a man who by most accounts was all too easy to dislike. More important, she is generally sympathetic to her subject's critical positions." "For all interested in the golden years of the New York art world, and in American intellectual history in general," said a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "this volume will fascinate."



American Heritage, July 1, 1989, review of Alfred H. Barr, Jr.: Missionary for the Modern, p. 108.

American Historical Review, December, 1996, Neil Harris, review of Art Lessons: Learning from the Rise and Fall of Public Arts Funding, p. 1651.

Art in America, December, 1989, Brian Wallis, review of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., p. 39.

Art Journal, fall, 1990, Helen M. Franc, review of Alfred H. Barr, Jr.

ARTnews, October, 1989, Bonnie Barrett Stretch, review of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., p. 131; September, 1996, Paul Gardner, review of Art Lessons, p. 74; October, 2006, Patricia Failing, review of Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg—A Biography, p. 134.

Arts Education Policy Review, September 1, 1992, Samuel Hope, review of The Art Biz: The Covert World of Collectors, Dealers, Auction Houses, Museums, and Critics, p. 39.

Arts, October, 1989, David Carrier, review of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., p. 111.

Booklist, May 15, 1995, Donna Seaman, review of Art Lessons, p. 1625.

California Bookwatch, June, 2006, review of Art Czar.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, January, 1996, J. Becker, review of Art Lessons, p. 776; February, 2003, F.A. Trapp, review of Marcel Duchamp: The Bachelor Stripped Bare, p. 973; October, 2006, A. Zanin-Yost, review of Art Czar, p. 290.

Commentary, July 1, 2006, Terry Teachout, "What Clement Greenberg Knew," p. 77.

Contemporary Sociology, January, 1996, Laurel B. George, review of Art Lessons, p. 117.

Dance Research Journal, spring, 1996, John M. Wilson, review of Art Lessons.

Insight on the News, June 12, 1995, Eric Gibson, review of Art Lessons, p. 25.

Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, spring, 1996, review of Art Lessons.

Library Journal, April 15, 1989, Russell T. Clement, review of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., p. 83; July, 1991, Mary Hamel-Schwulst, review of The Art Biz, p. 94; December, 2002, Douglas McClemont, review of Marcel Duchamp: The Bachelor Stripped Bare, p. 118.

London Review of Books, April 5, 2007, "Balls and Strikes," p. 27.

Nation, October 16, 2006, Barry Schwabsky, review of Art Czar, p. 25.

New Criterion, June, 2006, "What Fall?," p. 84.

New Republic, August 28, 1989, E.V. Thaw, review of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., p. 39.

New York Times Book Review, April 30, 1989, Louis Auchincloss, "He Knew What He Liked," review of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., p. 3; May 28, 1995, Martha Bayles, "Bad Art, Bad Politics."

Publishers Weekly, February 24, 1989, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., p. 211; March 27, 1995, review of Art Lessons, p. 66; June 10, 2002, review of Marcel Duchamp: The Bachelor Stripped Bare, p. 47; February 20, 2006, review of Art Czar, p. 148.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 2006, review of Art Czar.

Review of Politics, fall, 1996, Donald A. Downs, review of Art Lessons.

Times Literary Supplement, June 23, 2006, Keith Miller, review of Art Czar, p. 33.

Wilson Library Bulletin, October, 1989, Jean Martin, review of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., p. 128.

Wilson Quarterly, spring, 1995, review of Art Lessons, summer, 2006, Ann Loftin, "Critic and Creep."

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Marquis, Alice Goldfarb 1930-

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