The Laws of Nature

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Accidental Masterpiece

It’s time to review and discuss another book, and I was lucky enough to find The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art of Life and Vice Versa by Michael Kimmelman (2005). One quick read through the Introduction and I was hooked! This is a good one.

Kimmelman is chief art critic of The New York Times and has written other books related to art. This particular book became a New York Times Bestseller and received rave reviews. Personally, I like his informed and accessible writing style and can’t wait to read the rest of the book and share it with you as I read it.

Today, I’ll begin with Kimmelman’s Introduction – his purpose for writing this book. The idea behind ‘The Accidental Masterpiece,’ the one that popped into my head at some point, is pretty simple. It is not that I should write a book of art history or criticism, exactly, or solely dwell on the accomplishments of the greatest or of my favorite painters, sculptors, and photographers. Nor is it that all art is salutary. A day of looking at bad art can be long and dark. Instead, it is that … art provides us with clues about how to live our own lives more fully. Put differently, this book is, in part, about how creating, collecting, and even just appreciating art can make living a daily masterpiece. I have come to feel that everything, even the most ordinary daily affair, is enriched by the lessons that can be gleaned from art: that beauty is often where you don’t expect to find it; that it is something we may discover and also invent, then reinvent, for ourselves; that the most important things in the world are never as simple as they seem but that the world is also richer when it declines to abide by comforting formulas. And that it is always good to keep your eyes wide open, because you never know what you will discover.

Parts of this fascinating Introduction deal with chance occurrences that lead to the creation of an “accidental masterpiece." For instance, when Pierre Bonnard encountered for the first time the woman who would become the “defining figure of his life and work”, Maria Boursin.
Kimmelman segues between the Introduction and rest of the text by writing What follows are some of my own points of contact with things greater than myself. This promises to be a wonderful journey.

Hope you’ll join me!


Robin said...

I am also familiar with Kimmelman because he was interviewed in a dvd I recently watched, "my kid could paint that" - an indie film about Marla Olmstead, a child prodigy painter. The question he discussed was whether her art was a lie (and did her father help her paint)? Kimmelman made it clear to me that the bigger picture in art making was more about the process... and honesty. I am going to check out this book you are recommending because he inspires me.

M said...

I know I will like this book if for no other reason than the line that beauty can be found in places you might not expect it. I look forward to upcoming discussions.

Casey Klahn said...

I will follow faithfully. I like the idea of the book.

Elizabeth Seaver said...

Oh, this sounds great! I love the "eyes wide open" statement. Paying attention and being in the moment--so important and enriching. Let the discussion begin!

Unknown said...

Hi Robin - great! I didn't know about the interview, so I'm glad you mentioned it. I'll look for it.

Hi Margaret - oh yes, I think this book will resonate with you!

Hi Casey - wonderful! I always enjoy your input.

Hi Elizabeth - terrific! I look forward to our discussion.

hw (hallie) farber said...

I've watched him on the Charlie Rose Show; I'll be following.

Anonymous said...

I have this book but I haven't looked at it in awhile. I'm not even sure how much of it I've read. I will be following your discussion.

Unknown said...

Hi Hallie and Pamo - Great! I look forward to your comments about this book.

-Don said...

I am intrigued and will be following along. Happy reading!


Mark Sheeky said...

Comment two and it's rather coincidental that I'm in just a similar frame of mind to the author. Now I'll move up the chapters :)

My google verification word is Mingistis, which sounds like a disease I do not want to catch.

Unknown said...

HI Don - Thanks!

Hi Mark - oh, it does sound like a disease! yikes