This post by Diana Grygo (aka The Lone Beader) has me thinking about the general nature of art, and what makes really good art, as opposed to OK or not so good art. It would be fun to have a discussion about this right here, so I invite (read that as "respectfully ask") you to make comments reflecting on this subject.
I'll start the discussion by talking about a little gem of a book by Sir Kenneth Clark, a British art historian. Clark spoke at an international gathering of art educators and historians on the subject "What Is a Masterpiece?" His lecture was so well received and copies of it were so frequently requested that in 1979 it was published as a small book by the same title. Although it's no longer in print, used copies of it can still be found.
In his analysis of well-known paintings, mostly of the Renaissance period, Clark claims that masterpieces exist “by the extraordinary fact that they can speak to us, as they have spoken to our ancestors for centuries.” In addition, he suggests that “although we may disagree about a theory, the impact of a masterpiece is something about which there is an astonishing degree of unanimity.”
Looking at these paintings, he then lists and describes a dozen or so characteristics which make them masterpieces. This part of the book is fascinating, because these attributes apply not only to paintings, but also to beadwork, paper arts, quilting, knitting, sculpture, photography and any other art form you care to name. My favorite, the one feature that speaks most loudly to me, is this:
A masterpiece does not aim at art, but at truth.
Do not aim at art. Do not try to make art. But, rather attempt to tell a truth. In my opinion, truth is the seed from which all really good art is born. What do you think? What other characteristics are important? Do you want me to share more of Clark's list?
Back to Diana's blog (the inspiration for this post's subject)... If you read through her posts since July 26th, you'll see the start of her current project... a true story about four dogs, four very special show dogs: Bailey, Rachel, Eliza, and Genna. They weren't even personally known to Diana. But a picture she found on another blog and the story about them touched her in some deep way. She fell in love with them, and decided to portray them in a bead embroidery project.
I've followed her progress with great interest, and will continue to do so. Although I'm a cat-lover and not often attracted to dogs, Diana seems to be conveying a truth that totally attracts my attention. Every bead tells of her love for these particular dogs. To my eyes, it has the makings of a masterpiece.