Been There, Manet.
When I started painting again, I found myself wanting to find the right vocabulary and references to help myself form more concrete thoughts about my style. I read all my old art catalogs. I read them over and over at night while watching baseball on the couch. Titles included: Great Masters of French Impressionism (a c. 1970 book from the National Gallery), and exhibition catalogs of Mary Cassatt, Wayne Thiebaud, Wolf Kahn, and David Hockney. I wrote in them with pen.
In doing, I found so many wonderful quotes and critical insight that gave me consolation that I wasn’t seeking: that so many artists think the same things I do. The insecurities, the inspirations, the roadblocks. I was delighted to read Renoir say after he had painted with the Impressionists, “I found that I didn’t know how to paint or draw. I was at an impasse.” Been there, bro. I found that I aligned more with Impressionists than I thought, and I think we all do, because the big thing that ties all of us together who have followed them is their sincerity. They painted real, contemporary life rather than history, allegory, mythology. While their work wasn’t full of message or narrative, it was a genuine depiction of humanity. Living, loving, hanging out. Manet said, "Sincerity gives to painting a character of protest, while in fact the artist simply wants to render his idea. He wants only to be himself." Yes, Impressionists painted the prettiness of modern life, but can you believe that was part of the scandal? I love this from Renoir, “I’m well aware that it’s difficult to acknowledge that painting can be both great and yet full of fun. . . Those who laugh aren’t taken seriously.” I wrote Ha ha! in the margins next to that one.
1/9/2023 11:48:03 am
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