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Rembrandt and the Aesthetics of Technique

Post #873 • September 21, 2006, 12:26 PM • 14 Comments

A new publication. We ought to have these more often, yes?




September 21, 2006, 12:34 PM

Yes, please. Very nice with ideas but not too many words. And, or course, pretty things to look at for those of us far away.



September 21, 2006, 12:53 PM

Your successful campaign to inflict deep green envy on us cultural desert dwellers continues unabated. But please don't stop.

(I'm not a masochist, just begging for scraps).

Some one needs to examine this skill vs talent canard. Picasso's skill and Pollock's skill were very different at the outset but not so different at their best. Rembrandt was very talented and then worked at it very hard; this is admirable but not terribly interesting as such.

My very strong bias is that good art is skillful art, one way or another.



September 21, 2006, 2:04 PM

Yes. Skill, when it reaches a high enough level, becomes transcendent, beautiful and entrancing in and of itself. That is why I never buy the ultimately defensive carping of those who, lacking such literally supernatural ability, try to dismiss it as mere facility--as in, "she can sing the birds off the trees, but she can't act." Maybe not, but if you can't sing anywhere near as well, you'd best watch what you say.



September 21, 2006, 3:51 PM

Right. And even if the art, finally, is deficient, skill is a pleasure in itself to see.

As Fitzgerald wrote: "Almost any exhibition of complete self sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me."


that guy

September 21, 2006, 11:07 PM

Damn good. Just plain assertive and consistent. Nice to see.



September 22, 2006, 3:48 AM

Every person who paints ( of course, painting is and will allways be the poetry of the visual arts ) is forced to reflect upon culture and nature conceptually. Will your stuff hold up ? Does 'change' matter?


Theodore Roethke

September 22, 2006, 9:21 AM

Once I was something like this, mindless,
Or perhaps with another mind, less peculiar;
Or to sink down to the hips in a mossy quagmire;
Or, with skinny knees, to sit astride a weblog



September 22, 2006, 2:20 PM

Pretty clever, Theodore.

Here's the original verse, for anyone who is interested

-- Or to lie naked in sand,
In the silted shallows of a slow river,
Fingering a shell,
Once I was something like this, mindless,
Or perhaps with another mind, less peculiar;
Or to sink down to the hips in a mossy quagmire;
Or, with skinny knees, to sit astride a wet log,
I'll return again,
As a snake or a raucous bird,
Or, with luck, as a lion.



September 22, 2006, 5:47 PM

It's not possible to find the recipe for making art. 2 parts talent , 1 part skill ,1part tenacity etc. When it works it's so thoroughly mixed that it can't be untangled. Most successes seem to happen when one finds the means to do what needs to be done. When it works its because someone was able to make /discover relationships that are felt- for lack of a better term.
"Mere facility " can be used merely defensively but I;ve also come out of performances feeling like I'd trade that 5 octave voice for 1 octave voice with more heart. Good criticism isn't based on having the same abilities but on honest response.



September 22, 2006, 7:11 PM

Noah, the real problem is that these "things" are not things at all, but merely useful abstractions that we isolate intellectually from human character. We think with them all the time so we talk ourselves into believing they are real.

Though honesty is a root necessity for criticism this belief that isolatable characteristics affect the quality of art is a big problem there, too, though no one will ever own up to it.
We see this constantly when peole who religiously intone the truism that art can be anything and consist of anything turn around and condemn something for not being "with it".



September 22, 2006, 7:30 PM

Noah, I understand your point, and at times I may agree, but it depends on the individual case. If a soprano sings a fiendishly difficult coloratura aria in a way that defies belief, with the kind of virtuosity that is both stunning and breathtaking, I will not suffer a rival soprano with half the voice and one third the technique dismissing the other as a mere "canary." That's defensive, jealous bullshit. Yes, in an ideal world, the first soprano would not only sing with incredible skill but would also be a deeply affecting actress, but the absence of the latter gift by no means diminishes, let alone negates, the joy of the former.



September 22, 2006, 7:57 PM

A favorite (true) story:

Nellie Melba was a legendary soprano due to the beauty and skill of her singing, but she was no actress. Mary Garden was also a famous soprano, primarily based on her acting talents. Garden once heard Melba sing Mimi in Puccini's La Boheme in London, and later described the experience:

"...the last note of the first act is a high C, and Mimi sings it when she walks out the door with Rodolfo. She closes the door, and then she takes the note. The way Melba sang that high C was was the strangest and weirdest thing I have ever experienced in my life. The note came floating over the left Melba's throat, it left Melba's body, it left everything, and came like a star and passed us in our box and went out into the infinite...That note of Melba's was like a ball of light. It wasn't attached to anything. It was out of everything...My God, how beautiful it was!"



September 22, 2006, 9:41 PM

- no, with luck, an ant

a lion is too much in demand and therefore subject to a death that makes its short life unfullfilled
to its given desires
an ant is unpopular - too small for human admiration
(we admire that which can kill us)
a lion is a hunted trophy
humans can be flora
they can grow
they can grow and choke
they can radiate



September 23, 2006, 11:11 PM

Evidence of a great master's (relative) fallibility causes feelings of dismay. Even Rembrandt could miss a line or two, and I don't really like looking at those.

But still, thanks for the glimpse into the big man's sketchbook.



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