08 December 2009

Romantic Classicist

It was a couple of weeks or so ago now, but I was called both a Romantic and a Classicist by different people within days of each other. I thought that was pretty funny. I also thought that for different people to see what I do in diametrically opposed terms I must me doing something right (as opposed to the many things I do wrong). Admittedly, the person who made the Romantic comment is a fool, but hey.

I've also been told recently that I can churn out the paintings and drawings I do while blindfolded. If only that were true! However, rather than being offended (which was my initial response), I took it as a compliment, and one that ties in with the Classicist comment.

I'm a big fan of the Renaissance virtue sprezzatura. This term was coined by Castiglione in his book of manners for the young man about town, The book of the courtier, where he defines sprezzatura as 'a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it' – that is, appearing to do what you do with effortless ease, regardless of the actual effort that goes into it.

Unfortunately, I don't think I am a Classicist (and if I wanted to claim to have sprezzatura I really shouldn't keep this blog). Yes, as part of my preparation for painting I read both Alberti and Piero (both well worth reading), and I like centralised, unified, and cooly restrained compositions rather than those that are overtly emotional and expressive (which reminds me that Bernard Berenson's The inexpressive in art is also a great little book). But I don't have any time for idealism, especially that fucking stupid Platonic idealism, and that probably counts me out. I mean, come on, a world of ideas or essences or will behind the world of appearances? You've got to be fucking kidding me. It doesn't make any sense.

This is just a long drunken prelude to saying that I'm thinking of doing a self-portrait as a Renaissance man about town. I think it's time for some more self-portraits. Fuck they're fun, and in the final analysis that's all that counts. After I've got the Classicist one sussed, I might do a self-portrait as Romantic. Facing each other perhaps.

Update: Rose just read this post. Her response: 'That's a real narcissistic self-portrait.' No, no! 'Self-portrait as narcissist' is another good idea!

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