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  • Russ Ramsey

I Don't Like Donatello, and You Can Too

Today we’ll look at the Italian sculptor from Florence, Donatello (1386-1466). Full disclosure: I don’t like Donatello that much, and that is what I want to explore in this Art Wednesday. Liking and disliking art.

Portrait of Donatello


Donatello has done nothing to offend me. My dislike is probably more accurately ambivalence. I don’t get it. He doesn’t stir anything in my soul. I’ve tried. There’s a Ninja Turtle named after him, for crying out loud.

Donatello, David, 1430-35


I believe it’s a very valid form of art criticism to stand in front of a work of art and say, “I like this one.” Or “I don’t like this one.” Or “I don’t get this at all.” There’s no rule that says we must like everything.

Donatello, Gattamelata, 1445-50


We should be humble with our dislike or ambivalence when it comes to art. It’s very likely the problem lies with us. With Donatello, all those people from all around the world for 600 years can’t be wrong. Right?

Donatello, Penitent Magdalene, wood, c. 1440-1442


There’s the story of the art student who told the docent he didn’t see what was so special about the Mona Lisa. The Docent said, “The art student doesn’t judge the Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa judges the art student.”

Donatello, St John the Evangelist, 1408


I have no plans to learn to appreciate Donatello. We can have art we don’t like. That’s allowed. That said, I felt similarly about Rothko until a Rothko fan told me how to look, and now I love his work.

Donatello, Relief, Assumption of the Virgin, 1426-28


Donatello was a master sculptor, working with wood, marble and bronze. From across the room, I raise my glass to the Florentine master. Kudos to being one of the greats. I don’t get it, but that’s my issue, not yours.

Donatello, David (marble), 1408

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