'Hermann Broch was obsessed by this in the 1930s. He said: ‘Painting has become a totally esoteric matter relevant only to the world of museums; there is no longer a general interest in it or its problems; it is virtually a relic of the past.’
Broch, the great innovator of the novel, the defender of Picasso and Joyce, did not wish to attack modern painting for its modernity. He had merely (with a distinct sense of melancholy) defined its situation. His words were surprising at the time; they are no longer surprising. In the past few years I’ve conducted a little poll and innocently asked people I meet who is their favourite contemporary painter. I’ve noticed that no one has a favourite contemporary painter and that most people can’t even name one.
Such a situation would have been unthinkable thirty years ago at the time of Matisse and Picasso. Since then painting has lost the weight of its authority; it has become a marginal activity. Is it because it’s no longer any good? Or because we’ve lost the taste or the feeling for it? In every case it now seems that the art that forged the style of each era, accompanying Europe through the centuries, is abandoning us – or, we are abandoning it.'