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John Golding, Renowned Cubist Scholar and Abstract Painter, Dies at 82

golding John Golding, Renowned Cubist Scholar and Abstract Painter, Dies at 82

John Golding. (Courtesy the family of John Golding/The Guardian)

John Golding, one of the premier historians of cubism and an accomplished abstract painter, died on April 9 at the age of 82, according to The New York Times. The news was first announced by the Courtauld Institute of Art, in London, where he taught for many years. No cause of death was available.

Golding is perhaps best known for his 1959 landmark book Cubism: A History and an Analysis, 1907–1914, one of the earliest thorough studies of the topic. Margalit Fox, writing in The Times, had this to say of the work:

In that book Mr. Golding refuted the idea, widely prevalent at midcentury, that Cubism represented a break with the realistic tradition. On the contrary, he said, the Cubist perspective, with its emphasis on spatial depiction from simultaneous multiple vantage points, marked a singular return to realism after the misty prospect of Impressionism.

Fittingly, Elizabeth Cowling’s obituary for Golding in The Wall Street Journal carries the headline “Cubism’s Vasari.”

Golding organized a number of major exhibitions on artists like Picasso, Braque and Matisse, including “Matisse Picasso,” which examined the close (and competitive) relationship those two artists shared for many decades. It visited the Museum of Modern Art’s temporary Queens branch in 2003.

Born in Mexico, in 1929, he did his undergraduate work at the University of Toronto, and earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the Courtauld Institute.

In addition to being a practicing painter, exhibiting widely, Golding penned a number of well-regarded essays for The New York Review of Books. (His pieces are available here.) In The Guardian, Michael McNay singled out Golding’s almost 11,000-word essay “The Triumph of Picasso,” published in 1988 in The NYRB, as “one of the finest accounts of Picasso’s achievements.” Added Mr. McNay:

In person he looked a little like Picasso, but his voice was soft and his delivery almost contemplative, as though he was thinking his way forward, trying his ideas out on his audience as he formulated them, even on subjects he knew well.

His partner of four decades was historian James Coll, who died in 1994.

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