In 2009, Tom Shone wrote an article in which he explains the evolution of the term masterpiece and how today it often does not describe an artist’s best work. The following is an excerpt:
In the popular arts, the qualities that make for a masterpiece—the stylistic innovation, the self-consciousness, the ability to transcend genre—often militate against the humbler skills that made the artist popular. When critics call “Vertigo” Hitchcock’s masterpiece, they are praising it for being his least Hitchcockian film: it is slow, melancholy and almost joke-free. Even the Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper” has worn thin. “As a musician, I’m burnt out on it,” Aimee Mann recently confided. A consensus has formed around “Revolver”, less ambitious but more intimate, as the better album.
Read the article here.