Pearls from artists* # 577

September 20, 2023

In the Studio

*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

What is the popular conception of the artist? Gather a thousand descriptions and the resulting composite is the portrait of a moron: he is held to be childish, irresponsible, and ignorant or stupid in everyday affairs.

The picture does not necessarily involve censure or unkindness. These definitions are attributed to the artist’s preoccupation with his particular kind of fantasy and to the unworldly nature of the fantastic itself. The bantering tolerance granted to the absentminded professor is extended to the artist. Biographers contrast the artless news of his judgments with the high attainment of his art, and while his naïveté or rascality are gossiped about, they are viewed as signs of Simplicity and Inspiration, which are the Handmaidens of Art. And if the artist is inarticulate and lacking in the usual repositories of fact and information, how fortunate, it is said, that nature has contrived to divert him from all worldly distractions so he may be single-minded in regards to his special office.

Mark Rothko in The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art, edited and with an introduction by Christopher Rothko

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