It is uncommon that I discover myself on the opposing side of Ralph Waldo Emerson in a realisation; yet, here I am. I am a visual artist; a distinction it is obligatory to deduce, as I am endowed neither musically nor in the written word. A correlation between Emerson’s and my assessments on the reception of styles of art and homage follows; engaging the assistance of The Conduct of Life: Art, as there exists a pronounced divergence in our perceptions.
“A jumble of musical sounds on a viol or a flute, in which the rhythm of the tune is played without one of the notes being right, gives pleasure to the unskilful ear…”
Reading these lines invokes images of David Hockney’s iPad drawings: by the side of his paintings from the 1960s, some observers may regard these wonderful discernments of the vista from his window in Bridlington as “coarse sketches.” Were I favoured enough to have engaged in discourse with my hero, I would have challenged thus: why cannot course sketches be exalted or intangible?
Are these airs of cultivation — as Emerson observed in The Poet — local? Is this common reception of the arts dictated by rules and formulae? Is it pretension? Such deference to these ideals is neither pure, nor is it love, when a shallow devotion adheres to predetermined doctrines of beauty. “They seem frigid and phlegmatic to those who have been spiced with frantic passion and violent colouring of inferior; but, popular writers.”
Emerson broadens the concept...”…a very cautious imitation of the human form on canvas, or in wax-work, – a coarse sketch in colours and the landscape, in which imitation is all that is attempted, – these things give to unpractised eyes, to the uncultured, who do not ask a fine spiritual delight, almost as much pleasure as a statue of Canova or a picture of Titian.”
Whilst it may be true that “envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide,” one must scrutinise both the “copyist” and his impetus. Simple impersonation or laudable veneration?
My friend Eric is a supremely gifted musician, who composes, sings and is virtuosic in myriad instruments. Today, whilst we were on FaceTime, he played for me an Italian lullaby, “Ninna Nanna” on mandolin; his performance — a mimicry?; he did not write it —was sublime. My own interpretation of Raphael’s “Study of the Heads of Two Apostles and of Their Hands” is, unequivocally, an impersonation: I beheld the piece at an exhibition, it was not available to purchase as a print and I’ve an inherent talent for drawing. This was an act of admiration executed by me for me, to bring gratification. In that same dialogue, a further challenge: why cannot imitations be noble or ethereal?
“…another deduction from the genius of the artist is what is conventional in his art, of which there is much in every work of art. Thus how much is there that is not original in every particular building, every statue, and every tune, painting, poem, or harangue!…”
Examine the motivations for so-called imitation. Is adhering or conforming to an existing style, as in Roman architecture or Renaissance painting, imitation? Emerson says “no,” and I concur. Though, in the cases of Eric and me, some degree of imitation is to be expected, accepted and even admired.
I think your drawing is wonderful! I wish I had such talent!
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Thanks so much, Heather! Not bad for a shallow imitation! 😂
Pretty effing amazing if you ask me! You’d be Leonardo himself if you were any deeper!
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Ah, where would we all be if there were no differences, no challenge or contention, no variations of style and perception between all us creative Homo sapiens? Quite predictable, mechanized, and spoiled rotten with inflated sweetness I should think. 😛
“Variety,” as they say “is the spice of life” and it would be good and healthy to have indigestion every once in awhile to remind us of life’s vividness! 😉
Imitation, shmizination… FORWARD I say! Place your own footprint and interpretation onto life and let the critics fall where they may! And I think you are a fine writer Ms. Ironfist — and I love that image! LOL