A reader writes, apropos of last week’s postings about Giorgio Morandi:
Morandi looks a bit like our local Sacramento Wayne Thiebaud–rather creamy unfocused objects.
Ask yourself–is this really beautiful? Exquisite? As good as Leo Da Vinci’s Madonna of the Rocks (London version)?
I submit it is not. If it is not as beautiful, why should I care about it? Why is it worth my time or eyesight?
I only care about the Good, the True, the Beautiful. Not the sort of good etc. So why should anyone care about the sort of?
I never know quite what to say to people like this, other than what Stephen Maturin says in Treason’s Harbour to a slickster who tries to sell him on the idea that Napoleon was actually a great guy: “Sure, it is a point of view.” But I’ll give it another try.
To begin with, I don’t think Morandi is “sort of” good. I think he’s great, as do many other people who take art seriously and know far more about it than I, among them Karen Wilkin, the author of the eloquent monograph about Morandi I cited in my original posting. Yes, we could all be wrong, just like those 50 million Frenchmen, but as a college teacher of mine once gently informed me in response to my declaration that I didn’t think much of the music of Robert Schumann, “That may say more about you than it does about Schumann.”
I like “Leo Da Vinci,” too, but I also like lots of other painters, many of whom were alive in the 20th century and some of whom are at work right now, whereas there are more than a few people out there–including, I fear, my correspondent–who don’t like any modern art, and are proud not to. Such a lack of receptivity makes no sense to me, if only because there is a vast amount of modern art which is both deeply rooted in tradition and completely accessible to the open-minded traditionalist. Nobody’s asking you to fall in love with green women with two noses, or listen to symphonies with no tunes. If you like (say) Chardin, Brahms, Trollope, and Swan Lake, I can’t think of any earthly reason why you shouldn’t like (say) Morandi, Vaughan Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and George Balanchine.
And if you don’t? Well, you don’t. De gustibus and all that. But what sort of person doesn’t even want to try to engage with the art of his own day, much less the comparatively recent past? That’s like a six-year-old who refuses to taste anything he doesn’t already like. I spend a lot of time–most of my time, really–engaging with art of all kinds, and I’m here to tell you that there are people out there right now who are busy creating “really beautiful” works of art that will make sense to even the most conservative viewer, reader, or listener, so long as he has sufficient curiosity to give them a try. Once again, I’m not talking about bisected pigs and dried bull dung–I mean this. Or this.
If neither of these things strikes you as “really beautiful,” all I can say is that you may have come to the wrong blog. Fair enough?