Over the last few weeks I’ve been throwing ideas around with friends about Romanticism, American painting vs European Painting, and the changes that have taken place in our studios and/or our perceptions of what a studio is or does. Dennis Bellone, the marvelous painter and theorist, sent on a few observations and I’ve posted them here. Henri will also have much more to say about these things in the coming days so check back…
Thoughts on Romanticism-
First I want to thank Henri blog for their gracious consideration of my work and allowing for my input.
Notes takes over drinks- hence increasingly fragmented.
Courbet to me, is not a Romantic. Romanticism is for me a description given to a certain historical period of painters and paintings ranging from Caspar David Friedrich to Delacroix. Courbet bridges the gap from Romanticism to Realism. His early self portraits that date from the 1840’s fall more inline with the Romantic tradition but by the mid 50’s he is one of the beacons leading to a new development in painting hence forth called Realism.
What is Romanticism? Aren’t all artists despite their self definitions ‘romantic’? This desire or pursuit to create objects like paintings to express anything seems so fatalistically childish and rife with impotence that it seems it could be nothing more than ‘romantic’ and yet we persist.
The danger in the term Romanticism for me is as follows:
The necessity or imperative in itself of creation requires a certain sobriety and clarity of thought that is in contrast to “Romanticism” in its layman or undergrad art school awareness, an awarness which is guilty of a self-indulgence and self-mythologizing that for me, personally, is distasteful. This kind of Romanticism is ego driven and the territory of the artiste, the art made to congratulate the self and reinforce the notion of self in the world. What comes to my mind is the work of the BerlinArt show that MoMA had back in 88 with neo expressionism and artists like Salomé, Rainer Fetting and Luciano Castelli or others like Sandro Chia or Francesco Clemente.
I am more interested in the destruction of the self, the loss of self, the annihilation of the self or the realization that the contemporary idealization of self is a fiction.
Using Michael Fried’s concept of absorption and theatricality via Diderot as my starting point, and not necessarily true to his function but from my own reading or interpretation (or miss) but is as follows; theatricality happens when you are aware of yourself as viewer, ‘absorption’ into the moment of looking is loss of self, loss of self identification.
In my own words, art that only reaffirms your already known values and concepts is pornography, art that destroys your preconceptions is where it is at.
This might be artistic hyperbole on my part but Courbet’s paintings are about Courbet, Corot does not paint about himself, Millet’s heroic aggrandizement of the pauper is about Millet’s ideas and too theatrical. Monet does not paint about himself, Degas the same. Picasso does and doesn’t but always seems to transcend. Manet constantly hits me like a hammer to the anvil. Great work, real art, ART in its purest form does this, it defies you. But then this is my taste or predilection, my DNA as it were.
Historically, the viewing non art public likes ‘porn’ because it is comfortable and reaffirms their values, reaffirms their bourgeois world. Contemporary art of the current art industrial complex reaffirms the status quo of consumerism and artist as celebrity. Nothing new here, move along. Yesterday it was Cabanel at the Salon, today it is the stuff you see in galleries and the museums of the most recent…..
My point is that I have a semantic disagreement with the word Romanticism as it is too heavily freighted with historical baggage and misunderstandings. But that said, what I feel Henriblog is striving towards is a theory of engagement. Engagement that is simultaneously intelligent, highly critical and yet bound intricately with an experiential aspect that questions or at least one hopes artists do, question the current personal and historical state we live in, who we are, where are we going and what is this imperative or necessity to raise a voice, sometimes or too often as if we are in the wilderness and hence seems superficially to be a romantic view, given that we live in a world increasingly dehumanized, disengaged and far too often entertained to distraction about the real theft of our lives not only in the future but in our own present.
Whereas I might not personally get excited looking at Courbet or Delacroix I do understand and appreciate that they are the real thing in comparison to Delaroche or Cabanel, the things that get me are Ingres or Degas, Manet, etc., and they feed me in a way that the others don’t. To each their own.
With that said though I’ll close with a Percy Bysshe Shelly poem, which doesn’t get much more ‘romantic,’ but does hold true to my feelings. Damn, I just might be a romantic in classical garb.
“Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number-
Shake your chains to earth like
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many-they are few.”
from the Masque of Anarchy, written on the occasion of the massacre at Manchester.