“Art Revolution No. 4861” (E24)

  • Originally printed: Liberty Magazine, August 8, 1931
  • First reprinted in: Chips Off the Old Benchley
  • Unable to compare reprint with original text – Liberty Historical Archives not available at Toronto Public Library
  • Original Byline: unknown


As you might expect, given RB’s uniquely grounded brand of absurdity, the author never tired of burlesquing the barrage of bouleversements that swept through the art world during the first half of the 20th century. A close relative of E17, this piece is more successful, in that it strings together a stronger set of critical hits at the underground establishment, but it does boil down to the basic assumption that aesthetics should be a refuge from theory – not a lost continent submerged beneath successively waterier nouvelles vagues. It’s a fairly palatable take on philistinism, all things considered, but it’s not a view shared by your humble annotater.

Those reservations aside, this reader has no quarrel with Benchley’s invention of Straw Man Scrawler Jean Baptiste Morceau Lavalle Raoul Depluy Rourke – whose obsessive idées aren’t designed to fix anything. RB opens up a can of wild analysis in scrutinizing the feeble embodiment of Rourke’s theoretico-aesthetic ideals, a half-baked soufflé that wears its sub-mental symbols on its sleeve like so many cut-rate concept billboards. Bring on Art Revolution No. 4862!

Favourite Moment(s):
“Thus, the laughing snake in the lower left-hand corner of Mist on the Marshes is merely a representation of the spirit of laughing snakes, an has nothing to do with Reality. This snake is laughing because he is really not in the picture at all.”
“Whatever it is, you cannot deny that it is in the upper left-hand corner of the picture.”

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