Saturday, August 28, 2010

Yet more Josh Reynolds and a tune

Johnny A, Bostons guitar hero. I heard him on the RADIO in the car today. He's getting long deserved recognition. My favorite albums this summer are "Get Inside" and One November Night by Johnny A.

More from Josh Reynolds tonight, followed by my translation. I am going to plunder Josh for another night or two and then move on. Oh, yeah, check out Mathew Innis writing for the last couple of days in his blog "Underpaintings" about my teacher R. H. Ives Gammell.

In a composition, when the objects are scattered and divided into many equal parts, the eye is perplexed and fatigued, from not knowing where to find the principal action, or which is the principal figure; for where all are making equal pretensions to notice, all are in equal danger of neglect.

If you, when designing a picture, scatter subjects all over the canvas and divide that canvas up into similar shapes, measurements and intervals, the viewers eye quickly tires. They don't know what the important thing is, and at what they should be looking. When everything on the canvas demands equal attention, everything gets overlooked.

It is in art as in morals; no character would inspire us with an enthusiastic admiration of his virtue, if that virtue consisted only in an absence of vice; something more is required; a man must do more than merely his duty to be a hero.

In art, just like in morals, nobody would impress us with their goodness if that goodness was merely that they behaved decently. More is required, a man must do more than what is expected as his duty to be a hero. ( In other words an artist must do something exemplary with that paint, just making an average and usual picture is not enough. The artist needs to do something special. Average doesn't cut it).

I have in a former discourse" endeavoured to impress you with a fixed opinion, that a comprehensive and critical knowledge of the works of nature is the only source of beauty and grandeur. But when we speak to painters, we must always consider this rule and all rules with a reference to the mechanical practice of their own particular Art. It is not properly in the learning, the taste, and the dignity of the ideas that genius appears as belonging to a painter. There is a genius particular and appropriated to his own trade (as I may call it), distinguished from all others. For that power, which enables the artist to conceive his subject with dignity, may be said to belong to general education; and is as much the genius of a poet, or the professor of any other liberal art, or even a good critic in any of those arts, as of a painter. Whatever sublime ideas may fill his mind, he is a painter only as he can put in practice what he knows, and communicate those ideas by visible representation.

I have in past lectures tried to communicate my view that a thorough and searching knowledge of nature is the only source of beauty and grandeur. But when we speak about painting we must be aware that this rule, and all rules are subject to the technical means needed to produce a painting. It is not particularly in the learning, taste or seriousness of ideas that excellence appears in a painter. Painting has it's own kind of excellence, different from the other human pursuits. The ability to conceive a subject, in a way that makes it important, is a part of a good general education, a poet, a professor of any other discipline in the arts or even a skilled critic could do that. No matter what glorious ideas he may have in his mind, he excels as a painter only when he can use his technical mastery to put those ideas on the canvas in a recognizable way.

That was almost a transliteration, but I think I got the general idea there.

I will be holding a three day workshop at the Bass Harbor Campground in Bass Harbor, Maine. the 25-26-27th of September. That's Saturday-Monday. We will paint outside and I will teach beginners to experts the art of outdoor landscape painting.
Here is a link to where you can sign up
Reservations at the Bass Harbor campground can be made here.

6 comments: said...

What I think he is saying in that last paragraph is : for a painter, it's not what you paint but HOW you paint it. Now that is an early turn of the 1900 century idea, just around the time of the Impressionists. Reynolds was a head of his time, now I am convinced of it.

Lucy said...

This is much better than trying to figure out ARTFORUM.

Deborah Paris said...

Very funny and so true, Lucy!

Stapleton Kearns said...

I am not so sure, He was president of the Royal Academy.I suspect his ideas might have been more mainstream than that. I think the 19th century may get credit for older ideas that were left visible as classicism receded.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I CAN'T read Artforum. I think it's all jive.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Who reads that stuff anyway.....