ROSENBERG, HAROLD (1906–1978), U.S. art critic and scholar. Born in New York City, Rosenberg was educated at the City College of New York, and he received an LL.B. degree from St. Lawrence University in 1927. From 1939 to 1942 he worked for the Works Progress Administration in Washington, d.c., as a writer and lecturer, authoring the American Guide series. Rosenberg was deputy chief of the domestic radio bureau of the Office of War Information from 1942 to 1945. He directed the Longview Foundation from 1944.
Rosenberg lectured extensively throughout the United States on art and literature. He joined the University of Chicago as a professor of social thought in 1966. From 1967 until his death in 1978 he was art critic for The New Yorker, and in that capacity he influenced the critical reception of many of the emerging artists of the time, including Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Called one of the most provocative critics of his time, Rosenberg rejected the formalistic approach of other leading art theorists, including Clement *Greenberg, placing the value of the work on the act of creation.
From the early 1950s Rosenberg had shown great interest in the work of a group of artists that included Pollock, de Kooning, and Arshile Gorky. Rosenberg coined the term "action painting," now widely used in art history and criticism, to describe their work, which he described as "not a picture but an event." His many reviews and essays were influential in the development of public awareness of the emerging Abstract Expressionist movement, and in the success of many of the Abstract Expressionists, including Mark *Rothko, Hans Hoffman, and Philip *Guston. At the same time, Rosenberg was a detractor of Pop Art and other art trends of the period and, while he rejected formalism, he was equally dismissive of the postmodern critique.
Rosenberg wrote several influential books, including The Tradition of the New (1959), The Anxious Object: Art Today and Its Audience (1964), The De-Definition of Art (1972), Arton the Edge (1975), and monographs on Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Arshile Gorky, and Saul Steinberg. His articles appeared in numerous publications, including Partisan Review, Art in America, Kenyon Review, Tempes Modernes, and Art News.
Rosenberg received numerous awards and honors, including the Frank Jewett Mather Award from the College Art Association of America in 1964 and the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1976. He was a member of the International Society of Art Critics and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
[Dorothy Bauhoff (2nd ed.)]