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The painter’s Truth

November 30th, 2010

I understand that being “politically correct” in much of todays world precludes delving very deeply into philosophical matters. Has this affected the way we think and talk about art? I believe that perhaps this is the case. What do you think?

In the middle of the 19th century, Sainte Beuve summed up the current state of affairs thus: “The beautiful, the true, the good is a fine slogan and yet it is specious. If I had a slogan it would be the true, the true alone. And not the beautiful and the good get along as well as they can.” He was, I believe, speaking to the importance beginning to be placed on scientific and artistic truth. He was close to the painters. Corot was to talk about the importance of the first impression, truth and accuracy. Odd, considering he was so adept at fitting his impressions to classical notions of composition and design.

Truth. Exactly what is it? Does it have a connection with “to thine own self be true”? Is it enough to follow the current opinions flavored with the latest ideas as to the meaning of truth? How is a painter to know what to paint? Is it really as simple as truth or fiction?

Questions.

Most painters blindly follow the zietgeist. “You must be free and unique like no others.” This is not freedom. If you are not free you would not know the truth if it bit you on the arse. Freedom is a precondition for the painter or any creative individual.

Published in french as La vérité du peintre

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