Saturday, May 9, 2009

Matisse, On Originality

Matisse became very interested in Maupassant's ideas on artistic originality, which grew out of lessons the writer learned as a young man from Gustave Flaubert.

"What you have to do is look at what you wish to express long enough and with enough attention to discover an aspect of it that has never been seen or described by anyone before. There is something unexplored in everything, because we have grown used to letting our eyes be conditioned by the memory of what others have thought before us about whatever we are looking at....To describe a blazing fire and a tree on a plain, we must stay put in front of that fire and that tree until for us they no longer resemble any other tree or any other fire. That is the way in which you will become original."

There are problems caused by not looking carefully enough at those who came before you, of being ignorant of the discipline (95% of the enterprise is learned....there is no need to even attempt reinventing the wheel every time) and then there are problems caused by looking so closely at examples that you cannot see past what has already been done.

-The Unknown Matisse, Hilary Spurling, book 1 in her 2 part biography of Matisse.

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