Neo Rauch’s Fractured Fables

Both preoccupied and distracted by history, Mr. Rauch refuses to be hobbled by it. Compare Warten auf die Barbaren (Waiting for the Barbarians) (2007) to Balthus’ The Mountain (1936), a staple of the Met’s collection. The canvases bear an uncanny resemblance to each other, but Mr. Rauch’s enigmatic panorama is too unsettled and stern to succumb to the French master’s brittle nostalgia. However despondent the scenario or antiquated the imagery, a painting by Mr. Rauch points forward—albeit in ways that are hard to pin down. What they have to say about culture or, for that matter, the future is no small cause for concern. In the meantime, Mr. Rauch’s elusive lessons are here to puzzle over.

Neo Rauch at the Met: para is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, until Oct. 14.

Brothers’ Keepers

Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings: The Clark Brothers Collect, also at the Met, tells the tale of Robert and Stephen Clark, heirs to the Singer sewing-machine fortune and collectors of almost unerring taste. A dispute over family money led to a bitter, lifelong estrangement, yet the brothers’ aesthetic sensibilities were practically one and the same. You’ll have to suffer a preponderance of paintings by the hugely overrated Pierre-Auguste Renoir and a garish Dutch landscape by the semi-overrated Claude Monet before arriving at stunners by Vuillard, Seurat, Cézanne, Eakins, Homer, Bonnard, and, er, Frederic Remington. So-so paintings by Matisse confirm his genius all the same. Aristide Maillol’s silky distillations of classical sculpture only hint at his genius and beg for a major re-evaluation.

Impressionist and Early Modern Paintings: The Clark Brothers Collect is at the Met until Aug. 19.

Neo Rauch’s Fractured Fables