Happy New Year! How would you like to start 2023 in a new, creative way?
Every Wednesday and Saturday, we will be posting an installment of our book, Through an Artist’s Eyes: Learning to Live Creatively offering you a pathway to art and the vision of the artist. Enabling you to develop your own inner creativity and apply it to the personal cycle of everyday living!
INTRODUCTION TO THE WORLD OF ART
Who is an Artist? Part 3
Have you ever known an artist? Or even had an artist as a friend? Or is an artist a rather remote being to you? Someone distant, living in a rarefied atmosphere, surrounded by Art. Possibly the darling of the art critics and the mass media—maybe an Andy Warhol type—known for Art that you can’t quite appreciate or understand. Or how about the lesser known artist whose works of art you might see in a local gallery, names that kind of blend together? You might be drawn to a painting or watercolor or sculpture or two, possibly deciding to make a purchase. In this way, you most likely will become acquainted with the individual artist while providing support for his or her creative career.
The majority of artists we are familiar with, though, are probably long dead. They are usually found in the leading art museums where their works of art have been preserved by posterity. They also dominate the pages of art history books, some names more than others. Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Monet, Manet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, Dali, O’Keeffe, etc., perceived almost as gods in retrospect and larger than life. Yet, so often their biographies are a compilation of facts and opinions, legends and myths. Their creations and creativity often divided into styles and periods—slotted into categories of art invented by art historians and critics. Our knowledge of them, especially the earlier ones is likely second-hand, a result of guesswork, colored by a tendency to view them, according to the perspective of our own time.
We do have original quotes and letters, generally of the more recent masters of art. For instance, consider Vincent Van Gogh’s wonderful letters to his brother Theo, both his psychological and financial supporter. Hundreds of them still exist, preserved by Van Gogh’s sister-in-law following the death of Theo, only six months after Vincent’s suicide, a bible, really, a revelation, of an artist, not only about his works of art, but his everyday life. Showing us the link between the creative process and mundane functions such as eating, drinking, sleeping, etc., that all of us experience. Vincent, too, through his writings gives us a vivid account of his daily surroundings and encounters. Not only presenting himself to us directly, human being to human being, but also offering us timeless portrayals of his house, furnishings, his friends, and even his enemies.
However, many artists are shyer and more private than the demonstrative Vincent. In fact, some seem to specialize in erecting barriers against the general public. Winslow Homer, the 19th century American artist, placed warning signs reading “snakes, mice” on the path to his studio at Prout’s Neck to prevent tourists and other unwanted visitors from intruding into his artistic territory. A man who also engaged in relatively little correspondence—at least that remains to us—so that he is a mystery, even an enigma as a person.
Although, when we see one of Homer’s powerful seascapes such as “West Point, Prout’s Neck” or “Cannon Rock,” does it matter what we know of his character or his personal loves and hates—or even what he ate for dinner? For the completed work of art—the painting as well as the symphony, the dance, the novel, the poem, and the play—always stands independently in its strength, in certainty, its emotion, and its purity. It can be challenged by time, change of taste, and the constant flux and energy of civilization, past, present, and future. But it perseveres, representing the point where you and the spirit of the artist finally meet. Sometimes assistance from an expert or interpreter might be needed, but it is ultimately your feelings and judgment that decide your relationship to the artist and his work of art, and just as importantly, a trust in yourself.
Copyright 2010: Joan Hart, Museum One, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced in any form or by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented including photocopying, recording and information storage and retrieval without permission from the publisher.