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sincerity

Post #308 • June 28, 2004, NaN:7: AM • 8 Comments

Roger Lipsey, An Art of Our Own:

There are different missions; [Matisse's] was one of reconciliation. To "transcribe the beauty" is no small thing. The concept of sincerety was in fact central to his understanding of the artist's discipline. By sincerity he meant much more than honesty with others. The word evoked for him a willingness in younger artists to accept the influence of mature artists and absorb the lessons they offered. It evoked also the tendency to search oneself, to go ever deeper into what one is as human being and as artist. To be sincere is to know oneself privately and well, quite apart from the web of influences, however helpful. Sincerity provides the clarity and staying power to uncover internal resources, from which alone an independent art may grow. It is the key to fruitful relationships with others and a fruitful relationship with oneself. Because it grounds the artist in a psychological atmosphere closer to his or her true nature, sincerity grants relative immunity to praise and blame; it confers inner freedom. A disarmingly common word, sincerity signified for Matisse a power to see, a power to search, and a power to give form.
I can't insist too much on the necessity for artists to be perfectly sincere in their work. This alone can give artists the great courage they need to accept their work in all modesty and humility.
One must be sincere, and the work of art only exists fully when it is charged with human emotion and rendered in all sincerity, not through the application of a conventional program....

Comment

1.

oldpro

June 28, 2004, 7:24 PM

Matisse should offer us some relief from the leaden tone the prior blog assumed.

I have always used the word "serious" to describe what he is talking about here. It is not a better word, but "sincere", unfortunately, has lost some its force in Englsh because it has become associated with a kind of superficial uprightness, like the high school girl who wants to be "sincere, and not conceited". I am reasonably sure that the French term Matisse used had no such overtone.

I wish art history classes, especially those dealing with contemporary criticism, would pay more attention to what artists say, especially those who, like Matisse and Picasso, have so often come up with short statements which are not only true and insightful but often clever and amusing and pack a lot into a short space. "Tim" a late blogger last night, whose blog was a breath of fresh air, came up with a couple, one from an artist, one from a critic:

"The audience for advanced art is the same as for advanced science."

"You don't have to be a Cro Magnon to appreciate the paintings at Lasceaux"

You could say either one, or what Matisse said above, with acres of academic justification, but why bother.

2.

Mary Agnes

June 28, 2004, 11:19 PM

What a fabulous quote on the importance of keeping art real. I confess to going to graduate school in art history where i had lots of fun doing things i never had time to do when i was actually working in a musuem. I was lucky enough to convince my committee head that i needed to spend a semester on seeing what the sublime meant to some of the "New York School" of painters...of course you narrow these things down as you go or else you never get out of there! But while i was doing the sublime/spiritural in art semester for Dr. Beard's seminar on Abstract Expressionism i spent a lot of time with a wonderful compendium on the subject . It is on the link Franklin put up for Amazon at the bottom of the page. the title is: The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890-1985 by Maurice Tuchman. I could have gotten lost in that book. Every chapter brings up major issues in specific artwork. I will never look at Caspar David Friedrich the same after reading the chapter that discusses his work. Nicely backed up with facts along with formal analyses.

3.

oldpro

June 29, 2004, 1:18 AM

Which quote were you referring to, Mary Agnes?

I have to look at that Tuchman book. I never cared for those bilious colors of Friedrich's. Also, hard as I tried, I never quite got what everyone means by "sublime". It implies some kind of ultimate elevation or perfection - I know that - but I never could "get" it as a felt comnprehension. And It always seemed to creep in when there was nothing left to say, or when the painting was relatively featureless, like Newman's.

4.

catfish

June 29, 2004, 1:55 AM

Right on, oldpro. Even god does not care for "perfection", Anselm to the contrary. It is just the Cro Mangon in us trying to be something it is not, all this talk about perfection.

5.

Hovig

June 29, 2004, 5:05 AM

Oldpro: My personal favorite is "Beware of wet paint." (Duchamp 1966)

6.

cheeseball

June 29, 2004, 8:15 AM

catfish, is a "Cro Mangon" a huge prehistoric mango?

Sorry--couldn't help myself. Mangon could mean "big mango" in Spanish, and (not to be nitpicky) the repeated misspelling of "Cro Magnon" keeps bringing the image to mind...

7.

mary agnes

June 29, 2004, 4:33 PM

oldpro: sorry just got on here and saw your comment. The quote i referred to was the Lipsey one at the top of the page. The rest of the comments - i can totally understand if working artists are not interested in the type of analysis that the sublime thing is about. Honestly i don't think each one of us can be all-seeing and all-knowing. I think that it is meaningful in lots of ways to do the type of work that is done in the Spriritual in Art book. It goes a long way toward feeding an art audience albeit often indirectly thought curators, connoisseurs or just nerdie interested people who actually read that stuff, talk about it amongst their aquaintances, or just contemplate it on their own.

8.

catfish

June 30, 2004, 10:16 PM

cheesball: you answered your own question.

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