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Report from the Front

Art criticism, sometimes with context, occasional politics. Published in hard copy 2-4 times a year. New shows: "events;" hard copy rates & how to support the online edition: "works."



I am so sorry to have to report that John McLean, the British painter, has died at the age of 80 from the Parkinson's disease that he had suffered from for years. 


Born in Liverpool to Scottish parents, he was raised during the war years in Scotland, and studied first, English at St. Andrews University and then art history at the Courtauld Institute before settling for good in London and starting to make of art of his own in earnest instead of merely looking at and writing and talking about it…..


He taught art at schools in London and, during a stint at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in the 1980s, got as far afield in the New World as Saskatchewan, where the bright light of the prairies affected his work profoundly.


He even welcomed the Parkinson's because it forced him to develop new ways to paint.


In an affectionate obituary in The Guardian by Charles Derwent, McLean was said to see his art "as part of the project of modernism, and that project as morally important." 


Derewent quoted him as saying (earlier in this century), "The influence of what we call 'modernism' hasn't disappeared….It's in there, ingrained.  It's still going on.  Art has always had a lot of mansions. I don't think abstract painting is anything like dead.  I don't think it ever will be." (Maybe I'm wrong, but I think he would still say the same today.)

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