The critic has always played an important role in American culture. From Ralph Waldo Emerson to Walter Lippmann, critical writing sharpened the sense of what it meant to be American and also pointed to the future. In American art, there has been no more important writer than Clement Greenberg, whose work was essential in shaping postwar culture. An unsuccessful poet, Greenberg began writing criticism and commentary, finding a home in midcentury magazines like The Nation. Greenberg was both profoundly nationalistic and relentlessly avant garde in his critical stance. A formalist, he argued that American abstractionists were at the leading edge of world art, advancing the history of painting as it moved inexorably toward pure abstraction. In this representational portrait by René Bouché, Greenberg is shown doing what he did best: thinking—with typewriter at hand.