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Personality and Impersonality

Post #1701 • June 4, 2014, 7:08 AM

[Image: Watteau, Pierrot ("Gilles"), 1717-1719, oil on canvas]

Watteau, Pierrot ("Gilles"), 1717-1719, oil on canvas

From Antoine's Alphabet: Watteau and His World by Jed Perl:

What is truly new in art is a strong emotional inflection, a personality imposing its fresh feelings on everything that appears resolved in the art of the past. These feelings must, of course, find their ultimate expression in some quality of form, and it may be only through the experimentation with the forms that the feelings become clear. But it is the indissoluble individualism of the artist that gives the work of art its staying power. Newness, in this sense, is grounded in the fact that each person is somehow unique. New, in the sense that I am thinking of it, is not progressive or evolutionary but a continuous unfolding of images and ideas, so compelling in their individualism that their hold on the eye and the imagination retains its force, even after the artist is long gone. The point is not, however, that the strongest or most unusual personality makes the strongest or most unusual art. The process is more elusive than that. It depends on a willingness to hand over one's emotions or feelings to the work of art, to allow one's personality to float away from one and lodge in form. It is with this peculiar process that impersonality comes into play, for the artist must be willing to allow the feelings to take on a life of their own, and perhaps more important for the artist than the particular character or quality of a feeling are the feelings about that feeling, an ease with one's feelings, an equanimity about one's feelings. All the artists of any consequence whom I've known have been to a certain degree detached from the emotional character of their work, as if this were some difficult feeling, some strange emotional weather that they had made their peace with, that they had allowed to take its place in the autonomous world of form.

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