Hilton Kramer, whose clear, incisive style and combative temperament made him one of the most influential critics of his era, both at The New York Times, where he was the chief art critic for almost a decade, and at The New Criterion, which he edited from its founding in 1982, died early Tuesday in Harpswell, Me. He was 84.
His wife, Esta Kramer, said the cause was heart failure. He had developed a rare blood disease and had moved to an assisted living facility in Harpswell, she said. They lived nearby in southern Maine, in Damariscotta.
Admired for his intellectual range and feared for his imperious judgments, Mr. Kramer emerged as a critic in the early 1950s and joined The Times in 1965, a period when the tenets of high Modernism were being questioned and increasingly attacked. He was a passionate defender of high art against the claims of popular culture and saw himself not simply as a critic offering informed opinion on this or that artist but also as a warrior upholding the values that made civilized life worthwhile.
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