Peter Schjeldahl

Peter Schjeldahl was born in 1942 in Fargo, North Dakota. He grew up in small towns throughout Minnesota and attended Carleton College and the New School. He began his professional writing career as a reporter in Minnesota, Iowa and New Jersey. He is married to Brooke Alderson, an actress.

Art critic

In 1964 he traveled to Paris for a year before settling in New York City in 1965. Since coming to New York he has worked as an art critic for ArtNews, The New York Times, The Village Voice, and 7 Days (The Cooper Union). In 1998 he joined The New Yorker where he is currently the head art critic. During his career Schjeldahl has written several books of poetry as well as many books on art criticism. He taught at Harvard University in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies for four years as well. He has been honored with a Guggenheim fellowship for his poetry and the Frank Jewett Mather Award for art criticism by the College Art Association (The Cooper Union). Peter Schjeldahl currently resides in New York where he continues to write a weekly art column for The New Yorker.


Schjeldahl’s poetry falls in line with many of the characteristic themes and styles of the New York School. As a contemporary postmodern poet, Schjeldahl believed fervently in the idea that poetry should be enjoyed and understood by all readers. In an interview with the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Blackbird Schjeldahl commented on how “there are no rewards in being obscure or abstruse or overbearing” (Wolgamott). Schjeldahl’s work reflects this attitude and his beliefs against institutionalizing art and poetry.

His poetry succeeds without a great deal of complexity in language usage or style while maintaining a definite seriousness and poignancy in his themes. Schjeldahl’s poetry often addresses common experiences or familiar events in a way which grounds his work and accentuates his messages. This can be seen in poems like “My Generation” where he opens with: “Vietnam/ Drugs/ Civil Rights/ Rock/ Watergate/ (in that order?)/ Are the blows of history/ That have left my generation/ Its peculiar battered silhouette.” As this passage shows, Schjeldahl fuels much of his poetry with historical and biographical contexts which help audiences relate more intimately with his work.

As an art critic and as a poet Schjeldahl’s main ambition has been seeded in his desire to help people enjoy art. In the same interview with Blackbird Schjeldahl stated how “writing things that people want to read is my bread and butter” (Wolgamott). Schjeldahl’s poetry exists as poetry that demands to be read and enjoyed rather than studied in classrooms. The significance of his work comes from the lively nature his poetry manages to maintain while simultaneously delivering very impacting messages. Schjeldahl’s lasting influence comes from his ability to write poetry and criticize art in the late twentieth century where most audiences have tended to stray away from the arts in favor of more commercialized entertainment. Schjeldahl’s poetry stands out influentially among the works of the New York School of poets and the current American art communities.


  • An Adventure of the Thought Police. Ferry Press. London, England, 1971.
  • De Kooning and Dubuffet: The Late Works. Pace Gallery Publications. New York, NY, 1993.
  • Dreams. Angel Hair Books. New York, NY, 1973.
  • Jean Dubuffet: Recent Paintings, October 31-29 November 1980 The Pace Gallery: Exhibition, The Gallery. New York, NY, 1980.
  • Since 1964: New and Selected Poem. SUN. New York, NY, 1978.
  • The Hydrogen Jukebox: Selected Writings of Peter Schjeldahl. 1978-1990. Edited by Malin Wilson, University of California Press. Berkeley, CA, 1991.
  • White Country. Corinth Books. New York, NY, 1968.

Contributed to

  • Cindy Sherman. Whitney Museum of American Art. New York, NY, 1987.
  • De Kooning: Drawings, Sculptures: An Exhibition Organized by Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, March 10-April 21, 1974. Dutton. New York, NY, 1974.
  • Dean Sobel, Jackie Winsor. Milwaukee Art Museum. Milwaukee, WI, 1991.
  • Edward Hopper: Light Years, October 1 to November 12, 1988. Hirschl & Adler Galleries. New York, NY, 1988.
  • Elizabeth Prelinger and Michael Parke-Taylor, The Symbolist Prints of Edvard Munch: The Vivian and David Campbell Collection. Yale University Press. New Haven, CT, 1996.
  • Eric Fischl. Edited by David Whitney, Art in America: Stewart, Tabori & Chang. New York, NY, 1988.
  • Jean Dubuffet. 1943-1963: Paintings, Sculptures, Assemblages: An Exhibition. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington, DC, 1993.
  • Liza Lou: Essays by Peter Schjeldahl and Marcia Tucker. Smart Art Press. Santa Monica, CA, 1998.
  • Louis Carlos Bernal and others, Ten Photographers, Olympic Images. Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies. Los Angeles, CA, 1984.
  • Lucas Samaras, Samaras Pastels: Denver Art Museum, October 3-December 27, 1981. edited by Marlene Chambers, The Museum. Denver, CO, 1981.
  • Olav Christopher Jenssen: Bilder 1990-1994. Kestner-Gedellschaft. Hannover, Germany, 1995.
  • Picasso’s Dora Maar/ De Kooning's Women. C&M Arts. New York, NY, 1998.
  • Richard Bosman, Gifts of the Sea: Mandeville Gallery, University of California, San Diego, May 19 through June 25, 1989. The Gallery. San Diego, CA, 1989.
  • Richard Deacon. Phaidon. London, England, 1995.
  • Salle. Vintage Books. New York, NY, 1987.
  • Shards: Garth Clark on Ceramic Art. Art Publishers. New York, NY, 2003.
  • The Inward Eye: Transcendence in Contemporary Art. Contemporary Arts Museum. Houston, TX, 2001.
  • William Wegman. Museo de Monterrey. Monterrey, Mexico, 1993.
-Compilation of Schjeldahl’s work comes in large part from the list found on Galenet’s Contemporary Authors Online.

External links

19th century - 20th century - 21st century
1910s  1920s  1930s  - 1940s -  1950s  1960s  1970s
1939 1940 1941 - 1942 - 1943 1944 1945

Year 1942 (MCMXLII
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Fargo, North Dakota
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Carleton College is an independent, non-sectarian, coeducational, liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota, USA. The school was founded on November 14, 1866, by the Minnesota Conference of Congregational Churches as Northfield College.
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An art critic is a person who specializes in evaluating art. Their written critiques, or reviews, are published in newspapers, magazines, books and on web sites. Art collectors and patrons often utilize the advice of art critics.
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The 2006-01-04 front page of
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The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (commonly referred to simply as The Cooper Union) is a privately funded college in Lower Manhattan of New York City.
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The New Yorker is an American magazine that publishes reportage, criticism, essays, cartoons, poetry and fiction. Originally a weekly, the magazine is now published 47 times per year with five (usually more expansive) issues covering two-week spans.
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Poetry (from the Greek "ποίησις", poiesis, a "making" or "creating") is a form of art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its ostensible
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Harvard University (incorporated as The President and Fellows of Harvard College) is a private university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA and a member of the Ivy League.
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Guggenheim may refer to:
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Poetry (from the Greek "ποίησις", poiesis, a "making" or "creating") is a form of art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its ostensible
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The New York School (synonymous with abstract expressionist painting) was an informal group of American poets, painters, dancers, and musicians active in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s in New York City.
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Postmodernism is a term applied to a wide-ranging set of developments in critical theory, philosophy, architecture, art, literature, and culture, which are generally characterized as either emerging from, in reaction to, or superseding, modernism.
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