Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Old Barn and the Old Artists

The Old Barn. Before painting another image, I think I might do a few more drawings.

Here's an interesting passage from Kenneth Clark's Landscape into Art. I read the book as an undergraduate, which might explain to me why I don't remember much of it. It's actually quite brilliant, I think. The part about artists in old age is appealing. He does reclaim Monet who revived in his old age.

"I have said that impressionism was the painting of happiness. This, although one of its charms for us, is also one of its limitations, for the impressionists were thereby cut off from the deepest intuitions of the human spirit, and in particular from those which great artists achieve in the last years of their lives. There used to be a comfortable belief that great artists grew old in a kind of haze of benevolence, but a theory which does not apply to Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Tolstoi, Beethoven, Michelangelo and Rembrandt, is not really of much value; and the history of art shows that the minds which have not simply given up the struggle end in a kind of sublime despair at the spectacle of human destiny. Now expressionist art is essentially tragic; it was a sense of the misery and wastefulness of existence which gave an expressionist character to the late work of Constable and Cezanne--even to some of the late drawings of Degas. But in 1880 Cezanne and Degas were still classic painters, and the impressionists were all sunshine. It was van Gogh who brought back the sense of tragedy into modern art; and, like Nietzsche and Ruskin, found in madness the only escape from the materialism of the nineteenth century."

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