The excellent Hermitage show at the Art Gallery of NSW in Sydney has a row of pictures by Picasso. For sheer power I think they are only rivalled by the row of Matisse (another unfaithful husband).
To be extreme, what if the CEO of Exxon were also a great painter, or the CEO of CBA was a great novelist? But that won’t happen — it takes a lot of time and effort to be a good artist. So, how can we enjoy good art by “bad” people (men)?
Picasso can’t be denied. No artist after him is unaffected by his work.
Mostly, ignorance helps, and time past. Auden suggested this: “Time … Worships language [art] and forgives / Everyone by whom it lives…” Distance relieves the pressure. We can admire the pyramids and the Great Wall as markers of human enterprise without immediately thinking of the mind blowing suffering they incurred.
Gadsby studied art history, but she can’t look at a Picasso unmuddied. I get it. But Picasso can’t be denied. No artist after him is unaffected by his work. Maybe he can’t be forgiven his ruthlessness, and yet … A truism is that art distills the best of the artist — the book; the music; the artwork; the dance. If that is so, then to deny the art is to refuse someone trying their best to transcend themselves.
Why look at art? For pleasure. To be consoled or confronted. To be quickened. And that’s also what happens to artists when they make their art.
This article was first posted on Instagram @whchong