The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa
By Michael Kimmelman, 2005
By Michael Kimmelman, 2005
Chapter 1: The Art of Making a World
In this chapter, Kimmelman takes us behind the scenes into the intimate and seclusive lives of Pierre Bonnard and his wife, Marthe. Their world was carefully constructed to satisfy Marthe’s need for extreme privacy. Whether or not Pierre wanted this lifestyle is unclear, but he nevertheless created and maintained it at least for Marthe’s sake. The natural consequence was that Bonnard chose to find inspiration, beauty, and meaning from his immediate surroundings and from introspection. As Kimmelman writes, that was precisely Bonnard’s gift to posterity. He explored his world every day, and as he did so, it became more and more fantastical. In his own words, Bonnard explained it this way: People always speak of submission to nature. There is also submission to the picture. Even the most ordinary surroundings can inspire a masterpiece, especially if the goal is to create a work of art rather than a faithful rendition of one's surroundings.
Viewing Bonnard’s work is a voyage into a fantastical place. He transforms his world from ordinary to extraordinary by enhancing reality through color and form manipulation, disguised or nearly obscured forms that add nuanced meaning to the work, and brushwork that enlivens his subjects. Bonnard's world as he senses it becomes apparent; it’s meaningful and it’s alive.
What was the catalyst for the transformation of Bonnard's paintings from skillful to masterful? Kimmelman wrote in the Introduction to this book that The consequence of his [Bonnard’s] meeting Marthe was, you might say, an accidental masterpiece. Or to put it another way, Bonnard made his novel deep, and beautiful art out of what seemed to many friends and observers a claustrophobic and sometimes unfortunate relationship. To live intensely is one of the basic human desires and an artistic necessity. Bonnard, in his elective reclusiveness with Marthe, lived all the more intensely through his work. His force of will in so doing was a creative and illustrative act.
Lately, I’ve been paying attention to the madness and methods of those who achieve – who excel beyond their own wildest dreams. What do they all have in common? Imagination, passion, focus, a sense of purpose, perseverance, ability to avoid distractions, and fearlessness. There are so many “artists” in the world today but how many of us elect to own these characteristics? How many of us take full advantage of creating a masterpiece derived from our intimate world? How easily do we turn aside from our passion and goals in the face of failure and distractions?
If I were double-jointed I would buy a pair of sharp-toed cowboy boots and kick myself in the butt every time I am distracted from my art making in order to pursue something that ends up being a total waste of time, that fails to inform my work. For instance, watching TV or doing something that someone else should be doing instead. Am I serious about making art or not? Ouch! My butt hurts.
Kimmelman's words are true: To live intensely is one of the basic human desires and an artistic necessity.
What are your thoughts?