8 April 2020

Biographical Details

Herbert Furst, Chardin (London: Methuen & Co., 1911), pp. 26-27:
Show me a man's House, and I will tell you his character; show me a man's Work, and I will do the same. From this point of view there is not only deceit and candour, method or slovenliness, industry or sloth, but also morality and immorality — goodness and badness in Art. Those who maintain that Morals have no place in Art, or, on the contrary, that good morals and the best art do go, or should go together, are simply bringing certain ideas into an impossible relationship. A beautiful tree, say an aged gnarled oak, may be very bad timber, and in looking at it we may be conscious of both facts. In the same manner we may express our preference for a poodle over a bull-dog, but it would surely be senseless to demand the good points of a bull-dog to be repeated in the poodle. Some may therefore very properly prefer moral art to immoral art, only, whether moral or immoral, it may be equally fine art, just as both poodle and bull-dog may be equally fine animals.

This seeming digression was, I am afraid, necessary, because one meets the confusion of these ideas continually, in which the one camp seems to be often as hopelessly wrong as the other.

If personal qualities were not intimately connected with the expression of Art, biographical details would be altogether superfluous in a book such as this; but such details are, as a matter of fact, of very great interest, because they help us to estimate a man's work more truly, telling us why it had to take just that form in which it actually appears. And the investigation of the events of a painter's life and traits of character are as instructive and fascinating as the examination of his sketches and studies — it is the Man that makes the Artist — the driving power behind the brush.

Jean-Siméon Chardin, Still Life with a White Mug (c. 1764)

Not unrelated: Life Is Short and Hard