Okay, I know it's for the birds, that it doesn't mean a tinker's cuss, but at the end I got drawn into it despite myself. Back on the 8th June The Times got to the end of its long-running poll to find out who, by popular consent, is or was the greatest artist of The Twentieth Century - and not as I originally typed, of all time. Even so, a bit like trying to establish which is the greatest fruit or vegetable. I treated it with all the disdain it deserved for the whole 16 weeks that it took to run its course. But then, when all the 1.4 million votes had been counted and the final results were known, I caved in. (What is it about our natures that succumbs to the competitive element despite our best endeavours, even where it is patently inappropriate?) Nothing should have surprised me about the competition (sorry, poll!)of course - with the possible exception of Picasso not coming first - for with so many of all shades of outlook casting their votes there was bound to be a great mix and levelling. And there was - and Picasso did come first! And Paul Cézanne came second. Almost as much a foregone conclusion as the first place, I thought. No surprises so far. But then:-
- Third place went to Gustav Klimt, master of the Art Nouveau and supposedly with major share holdings in manufacturers of gold leaf. How could the good burgers of Britain who voted in such numbers for Cezanne and Monet (fourth) have voted for Klimt. The answer is, of course, they didn't. It was another lot.
- Marcel Duchamp slipped into fifth place between Monet and Henri Matisse (sixth): same explanation as above? I don't think so, no. Duchamp has his place for good and cogent reasons. Even so I was surprised to see him achieveing it.
- Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning and Piet Mondrian, all squeezed in (7th to 10th) before Paul Gauguin , number eleven. Yup, didn't altogether disapprove of that, but still slightly surprised.
- Mark Rothko at 28 just pipped Edward Hopper.
- Lucien Freud at 30 (tagged "Britain's Greatest Living Artist"?) was 4 places ahead of David Hockney.
- Good to see a photographer (Cartier-Bresson) in at 35, though surely if he'd been a painter he would have been higher?
- Henry Moore at 49 demonstrated just how far he has slipped out of fashion.
- Ditto Tracey Emin at at 52 and Damien Hurst at 53.
- Marc Chagall at 71 was disappointing.
Full results with information about the top 200 artists can be found here
(The paintings are, in order, by: Monet, Hockney, de Kooning and Hopper.)