Jed Perl, the art critic at the New Republic and a contemporary (as well as one time-co-worker) of Hilton Kramer, has an even assessment of the late critic and founder of The New Criterion who passed away in March. He had, Mr. Perl says, two sides–the enthusiastic aesthete and the harsh polemicist:
Despite all the fire and brimstone, Hilton may have been too much of an optimist to face squarely all the difficulties involved in defining the essential but elusive role of the arts in a democratic society. I think that part of what he loved about his years at The New York Times was the unprecedented opportunity he had to communicate with a large, heterogeneous public. But the public did not necessarily embrace his enthusiasms—or even know what he was trying to say. Moving on to The New Criterion, he came to believe that polemic might work where persuasion had already failed. Much good writing has been published in The New Criterion. But the problems in the art world that Hilton quite accurately diagnosed a generation ago have, if anything, become more acute.