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Robert Hughes Biography

(1938– ), The Art of Australia, Heaven and Hell in Western Art, Time

Australian art critic and writer, born in Sydney, educated at Sydney School of Architecture. He published The Art of Australia (1966) and Heaven and Hell in Western Art (1969), and in 1970 became art critic for Time magazine. The Shock of the New: Art and the Century of Change (1980) was based on a successful BBC television series. The Fatal Shore (1988) was a vivid, at times rather over-written, but hugely successful reassessment of Australia's brutal convict past. Published to coincide with Bicentennial year, it continued Hughes's long-standing interest in the relationship between society and sensibility and provoked informed reviews and debate on what was once a much-suppressed aspect of Australia's (and Britain's) history. The idea for it grew from Hughes's realization that ‘like nearly all other Australians’ he ‘knew little about the convict past’ of his own country. Not until the publication in 1962 of the first volume of A History of Australia by Manning Clark did Hughes recall gaining any glimpse of the darker side of history; his own book is important for its popular and evocative presentation of the central facts. Other critical work includes Frank Auerbach (1990), Nothing if Not Critical (1990), and Barcelona (1992), a historical and cultural portrait, emphasizing the city as the chief seat of Spanish art nouveau, and coinciding with the Olympic Games in that city. Hughes provoked much debate and a strong critical response with The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993), three long essays on contemporary American culture which he perceives as dominated by politically correct notions of art and literature as therapeutically functional.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Honest Ulsterman to Douglas Hyde Biography