Robert Coates (critic)

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Robert Myron Coates (April 6, 1897 – February 8, 1973) was an American writer and a long-term art critic for the New Yorker. He used the term "abstract expressionism" in 1946 in reference to the works of Hans Hofmann, Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning and others.[1][2][3][4]

As a writer of fiction, he is considered a member of the Lost Generation, having spent part of his life abroad in Europe. His first three novels are highly experimental, drawing upon Dada, surrealism and expressionism for their effect. His last two novels are examples of crime fiction in which the narrator presents a psychopathological case study of the protagonist. Nowadays, Coates is best known for The Outlaw Years (1930), which deals with the history of the land pirates of the Natchez Trace.

Anthony Boucher praised Coates as "one of the most persuasive recorders of the unaccountable and disturbing moment," singling out his fantasy stories for their "haunting tone of uncertainty and dislocation."[5] Floyd C. Gale said that The Eater of Darkness "has been called the first surrealist novel in English".[6]

Maxim Lieber was Coates' literary agent from 1935 to 1938 and in 1941 and 1945.

Coates was born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1897 and died at the age of 75 in New York City in 1973.[7]



  • The Eater of Darkness (Contact Editions, Paris 1926; Macaulay, New York, 1929; republished by Putnam, 1959)
  • Yesterday's Burdens (1933; rpt. 1975, 2020)
  • The Bitter Season (1946)
  • Wisteria Cottage (1948) (also known as The Night Before Dying)
  • The Farther Shore (1955)

Short fiction[edit]

  • All the Year Round (1943)
  • The Hour After Westerly (1957)
  • The Man Just Ahead of You (1965)
Title Year First published Reprinted/collected Notes
The law 1947 Coates, Robert (November 29, 1947). "The law". The New Yorker. 23 (41): 41–43.


  • The Outlaw Years (1930)
  • Coates, Robert (January 15, 1949). "The Art Galleries: Blume, Delaunay, Glackens". The New Yorker. 24 (47): 48–49. Reviews Peter Blume at the Durlacher Gallery, Robert Delaunay at the Sidney Janis Gallery, and William Glackens at the Kraushaar Galleries.
  • Coates, Robert (January 28, 1950). "The Art Galleries: Rembrandt and Juan Gris". The New Yorker. 25 (49): 60, 62. Reviews Rembrandt at the Wildenstein Gallery; Gris at the Buchholz Gallery.
  • The View from Here (1960). Memoir
  • Beyond the Alps (1961)
  • South of Rome (1965)



  1. ^ New Yorker, Peter Schjeldahl, Big Bang
  2. ^ BBC The Power to Amaze, Abstract Expressionism
  3. ^ Abstract Expressionism, NY, MoMA
  4. ^ Clement Greenberg, Art and Culture Critical essays, ("American-Type Painting"), Beacon Press, 1961 p.:209, ISBN 978-0807066812
  5. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, May 1957, p.77.
  6. ^ Gale, Floyd C. (August 1960). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 117–121.
  7. ^ Wagle, Greta (2003). "Coates, Robert M[yron]". In Serafin, Steven R. (ed.). The Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature. Bendixen, Alfred. London: Continuum Publishing. p. 207. ISBN 0-8264-1517-2. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
  8. ^ Short stories unless otherwise noted.

Further reading

  • Pierce, Constance. "Gertrude Stein and her Thoroughly Modern Protege." Modern Fiction Studies 42.3 (Autumn 1996): 607–25.
  • Pierce, Constance. "Language • Silence • Laughter: The Silent Film and the 'Eccentric' Modernist Writer." SubStance 16.1 (1987): 59–75.
  • Roza, Mathilde. Following Strangers: The Life and Literary Works of Robert M. Coates. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2011.
  • Roza, Mathilde, & Mearns, Jack. "Collecting Robert M. Coates". Firsts, 17.8 (2007): 18–27.