Art critic and historian;
Born: July 28, 1938; Died: August 6, 2012.
Robert Hughes, who has died aged 74 after a long illness, was an eloquent Australian writer and art critic whose 1980 BBC series on the development of art since the Impressionists, The Shock of the New, was a TV landmark. The subsequent book was an international best-seller as was The Fatal Shore, his 1987 study of the early settlement of Australia and its roots as a British penal colony.
He was known for his acerbic Australian wit and was brutal in his criticism of many giants of modern art, from Warhol and Beuys to Koons, Hirst and Emin. He regarded them as little more than market manipulators whose main talent was for self promotion in an art world subverted by money.
Of Koons he once wrote: "He has the slimy assurance, the gross patter about transcendence through art, of a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida. And the result is that you can't imagine America's singularly depraved culture without him."
But he would wax lyrical about artists he liked and admired, such as Lucian Frued and Paula Rego.
He was born in Sydney into a family of lawyers. His older brother Thomas is a former attorney general of Australia. He went to a Jesuit boarding school and then on to Sydney University, where he studied architecture ans befriended the likes of Clive James and Germaine Greer.
He began his career as a cartoonist and later an art critic in Sydney before moving to London and writing for the Daily Telegraph, The Spectator, The Times and The Sunday Times.
In the 1970 he crossed the Atlantic to New York and landed a job as art critic for Time magazine. New York was to be his base for the rest of his life, although he never gave up his Austrlian citizenship, despite having a love-hate relationship with the land of his birth. He was an outspoken supporter of Australia's Republican movement.
As well as The Shock of the New he also made other TV documentaries, including one on Goya and a 1997 US TV series called American Visions on the history of US art since the American Revolution.
The Fatal Shore was rated in 2011 as among the top 100 non-fiction books written in English since 1923 by Time magazine, which called it "a staggering achievement".
Probably the most famous art critic in the world, in 1999 he suffered a near-fatal car crash in Australia which left him with numerous health problems. Mr Hughes is survived by his third wife, Doris Downes. His previous marriages ended in divorce. In 2002 his son by his first wife took his own life.
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