Surfing the internet the other day, I came across this page about an artist I’d never heard of before: R. H. Ives Gammell. He wrote a book called “The Twilight of Painting” which in the opening chapter states:

“The ultimate importance of Modern Painting in the history of art will be seen to lie in the fact that it discredited and virtually destroyed the great technical traditions of European painting, laboriously built up through the centuries by a long succession of men of genius. The loss of these traditions has deprived our potential painters of their rightful heritage, a heritage without which it will be impossible for them to give full scope to such talent as they may possess.”

Now that’s a pretty damning thing to say about modern art and I agree for the most part. It’s sad that nobody (or very few people) nowadays has the skill or knowledge to paint something like “Nymphs and Satyrs” (a painting by Bouguereaux, which was one of my painting teachers favorite artists…by the way, you can see that painting at the Met, it’s on loan from another museum)

I think modern art’s preoccupation with the idea behind the art has led to some pretty ugly artwork. Take this Cy Twombly painting for instance:

It’s just red scribbles. I can’t see how anyone could find that to be remotely beautiful (and mind you, there is some abstract art which I do like), let alone “interesting”. Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying that artists should stop making abstract art (if that’s what truly rocks your boat), just that the art world shouldn’t look down on people who do figurative work, because it’s exactly that attitude that has led to the loss of some amazing techniques.

2 Comments

  • I don’t think you really know what your talking about. Is your teacher a high school or junior high teacher perhaps? Cy Twombly takes the materiality and the process more into consideration than classcial aesthetics. I recently saw an entire room of his work at the PMA, and let me tell you, I was absolutely floored. The monumental scale coupled with the primal velocity of his marks was absolutely beautiful. You seem to have a very limited understanding of art. See them in person. It changed my opinion instantly.

    • The teacher in question is actually not my teacher but an artist who lived in the 1920s. I’ve taken a lot of art courses and been taught by teachers who love conceptual and abstract art, so I’m very familiar with the reasons why scribbles on a canvas is called “art”; the thing is, I don’t buy it. You have different opinions on the matter and that’s great for you, but you can’t convince me to appreciate something which at a visceral and conceptual level I absolutely loathe.

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