Where are all the great painters?

Contemporary and Old Art Reviews

Where are all the great painters?

Postby jasperjoffe » Fri Nov 07, 2014 1:41 pm

The Rembrandt show made me think about this. I was trying to work out how many great painters we should expect to be alive at any time. Some very rough calculations led me to decide at least one per year was created before the 20th Century. Given the increased population and longevity, there should be quite a few alive at any moment. But I can't think of many. Perhaps that's my self-justifying thinking or just contemporary myopia.

Also I was thinking about how sports people and scientists and other professions are always advancing, getting better, and painters not so much. Artists seem to burst out of art school (especially MAs) and then not get much further (once again I'm open to the idea that this is my jaundiced nostalgia). Less successful (in career terms) artists don't seem to improve much even though they beaver away.

I've come up with two ideas for why this might be so:

1. Artists do not expose themselves to constructive or really any criticism once they've left art school. Even those artists in the public eye are just discussed in nonsensical art theory terms, or the PR/content based bullshit of newspapers (though they get more feedback) which is helpful). Because of the idea of the uniqueness and individuality of the lone artist, they cut themselves off from feedback/improvement/coaching, unlike most other successful people.

2. (this is more tenuous) Figurative painters usually work from photos. Before the 20th Century artists didn't. Something about the process of conversion of sight/imagination is lost when artists work from the flat (therefore already painting-like) photo. This is by no means an argument in favour of everyone painting Freudy life paintings, just a possible reason for the lack of good figurative painting. Looking or thinking about 3D things and then painting them is very different from rendering photos.
jasperjoffe
Site Admin
 
Posts: 766
Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:53 pm

Re: Where are all the great painters?

Postby Jim » Sat Nov 08, 2014 7:27 am

Would you not say that western art followed a natural progression which led up to modernism and a situation where no artists were interested in producing 'great' paintings in the way that Rembrandt was great. Like, Picasso could have painted like Ingres if he had wanted to kind of thing.
People will probably look back and see greatness in our era in other areas of the arts, in film maybe?
Jim
 
Posts: 97
Joined: Sun Jan 09, 2011 12:43 pm

Re: Where are all the great painters?

Postby jasperjoffe » Sat Nov 08, 2014 10:10 am

No. I think there are plenty of artists trying to be great (or whatever synonym they use) painters, and they don't need to do it in the style of Rembrandt. I don't think the drought is a result of technological changes.
jasperjoffe
Site Admin
 
Posts: 766
Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:53 pm

Re: Where are all the great painters?

Postby CAP » Sat Nov 08, 2014 11:11 am

I think looking for ‘greatness’ is a game best left for historians or those looking back. Contemporary painters do better to look for work that reflects their lives or worlds in particular, dare I say, original ways. That’s what brings painting to life and makes it exciting. The current painters I admire range from Brice Marden to Jonathan Lasker to Lari Pittman to Luc Tuymans to Neo Rauch to Albert Oehlen. There are so many different paths, so many different attitudes, who would want to compress them down to some one-size-fits-all ‘grateness’? Abstraction? – it’s all a matter of how far and in which direction. The same can be said of figuration. Then there are artists like Jules de Balincourt or Peter Doig, who are sort of hit and miss but still get at stuff like rock festivals and ski resorts, in ways so different and more engrossing than photography or video and bring these things alive for me in unexpected and complex ways (although I am hardly an ardent rock festival or ski resort goer). There are many others I could name – not doing stuff anything like my own, but who I can freely acknowledge, without being threatened or directly inspired. :D

Greatness? It’s overrated. 8-)

The hard part is not recognizing criticism but staying alive to possibilities.
User avatar
CAP
 
Posts: 1081
Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:38 am
Location: Off-world

Re: Where are all the great painters?

Postby jasperjoffe » Sat Nov 08, 2014 1:24 pm

Not really trying to resurrect greatness as a concept, but however which way you name it, I mean really good, interesting, sums up their times, connects to the human spirit, awesome, cool, wonderful, etc. In an easy word: great.
jasperjoffe
Site Admin
 
Posts: 766
Joined: Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:53 pm

Re: Where are all the great painters?

Postby Jim » Sat Nov 08, 2014 3:10 pm

It doesn't make sense to compare the quality of painting done in the (distant) past with today's
painting. Completely different context.
Jim
 
Posts: 97
Joined: Sun Jan 09, 2011 12:43 pm

Re: Where are all the great painters?

Postby CAP » Sat Nov 08, 2014 9:16 pm

It's also worth pointing out that the latter half of Rembrandt's life was lived in pretty much obscurity and poverty - 'greatness' or 'success' was only conferred in retrospect. Then there are artists who swam against the tide for most of their lives like Vermeer, Blake, Van Gogh and Cezanne who also had greatness conferred upon them posthumously. Did they listen to criticism? Get with a programme? Network adequately? Well, to a degree... they had their circles, kindred spirits and fans. But were they ever a success in terms of wealth and fame? - Nosirree Bob.

Then again, think of their contemporaries that did get it all - the cash and renown for the length of their lives. In the 1890s, you didn't pay megabucks for a Van Gogh or a Cezanne - it was journeymen like Burne-Jones or the now almost entirely forgotten Monticelli that excited sales rooms. In retrospect they look much less important or great, and I see no sign of this perspective reversing. So having it all isn't necessarily keeping it all. Yeah they probably listened to criticism and shrewd advice and the cosy feedback loop of the privileged and powerful duly repayed them. But that too is subject to unexpected change. The programme is not much more than an opportunist's club. :twisted:
User avatar
CAP
 
Posts: 1081
Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:38 am
Location: Off-world


Return to Art Reviews

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

cron