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19 April 2007

Art for Arts sake

Normally I blog about books I have read, but this is one about one that I hope to read and that is one by James Whistler, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies - A collection of the artist's thoughts, essays and writings on Art.

During a time when in England, art and paintings were characterised with colour, intricate details, sentiment, realism and compositions of mother,child,animals, english drawing rooms and countryside,dogs and horses and upholstery, flowers etc, Whistlers "Arrangements in Grey and White", better known as Whistlers Mother created a furore among the establishment and the critics alike. It was stark (evocative of Japanese art) and completely in anti-thesis of the prevalent norms.

His painting, Nocturne in black and gold evoked sharp criticism from art critic John Ruskin whom he sued for libel and won, went bankrupt in the process, but he bounced back. In 1885, Whistler delivered the "Ten 'Clock, " his famous lecture summing up his theories of aesthetics in beautifully polished prose and which spoke of both poetry and painting.

I am not an art historian or art critic. But in Whistler's art, life and writings he emerges as one with immense integrity -to his own self and his muse. A person who loved himself, loved his art,loved work, friends, food, relationships, his mother, an argument, discussions and standing up for what he believed in, and who lived a long, fruitful life and died of natural causes. Compare this to the sentimental; intellectual; angst-ridden; rebellious,sometimes suicidal; with no commercial knowledge (or over commercial-playing to the gallery types) portrait that is normally drawn of an artist both in old and modern times. I hope to learn more once I get my hands on the book.

There is art history, art aesthetics & theories, schools, forms, genres of paintings, artists and masters.

Then there has been Whistler who said, “Art happens”.

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