Bathers with a Turtle (Baigneuses), 1907-08, Henri Matisse
This week some friends were discussing Thomas Kinkade, whose work is being dragged out into the public sphere through a retrospective, which in turn has engendered a flurry of new stories about his troubled life. (Predictably, none are positive.)
I was curious about why his landscapes said nothing about his personal struggles. “He did not paint what he wanted to paint; everything he painted was to sell,” said Brad Marshall.
Steamboat Leaving Boulogne, 1864, Édouard Manet
Then we moved on to bad moments by great painters. Karl Eric Leitzel mentioned how bad Matisse’s Bathers with a Turtle is, which in turn reminded me of Manet's Steamboat Leaving Boulogne and Sargent’s Spanish Dancer, in which either the head or the arms of the figure are inexplicably stuck on backwards.
Matisse, Manet and Sargent were brilliant painters; the rare duds in their oeuvre serve to point out just how brilliant they are. “When painters are that innovative and pushing painting in such new directions, they will be unsuccessful at times,” said Brad Marshall.
Spanish Dancer, 1879-82 (preparatory oil study for the main figure in El Jaleo), John Singer Sargent
And that is where I want to be: not painting what I know will sell, but painting outside myself.
This week, Pastor Bill Blakely suggested that if “I Am,” is the Lord’s name forever (Exodus 3:14), then all the “I am” statements we use to define and limit ourselves are in fact blasphemous. Thomas Kinkade was trapped by his “I am a great artist” statement; it was dissonant with the world’s opinion. Instead of painting setting him free, it made him miserable.
There are still a few openings in my 2014 workshop in Belfast, ME. Information is available here.