In the historical analysis of abstraction in modern art proposed by Frank Stella in his 1984 Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, published last year as Working Space, Matisse is practically a nonentity. Stella presents art history as a chronicle of progress articulated in the recurrent problem of pictorial space. The challenge met by the early abstractionists was that of exploiting the resources of the flatness of the picture plane; for later generations it became that of generating dimensionality rather than merely illustrating a surface. Caravaggio is the first hero in the chronicle because it was he who responded to the enfeeblement of pictorial space in Mannerist painting by creating what Stella calls “projective space,” the deepening of the isolated image in a painting without a correspondent illusionist deepening of scenic elements. The modern heroes are Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Malevich, who redefined abstractionist space in ways...

 
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