People are always talking about “incidentals’’; but nothing is incidental in a picture, everything is indispensable to the whole effect, so nothing must be neglected. If a man can give value to the main part of his composition only by negligent treatment of the subordinate portions, his work is in a bad way. Everything must and can be carefully executed, without the different parts obtruding themselves on the eye. The proper subordination of the parts to the whole is not achieved by neglecting incidental features, but by correct grouping and by the distribution of light and shadow.
A really good picture looks as if it’s happened at once. It’s an immediate image. For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked, and you can read in it – well, she did this and then she did that, and then she did that – there is something in it that has not got to do with beautiful art to me. And I usually throw these out, though I think very often it takes ten of those over-labored efforts to produce one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it, and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute.
In the creative act, the artist goes from intention to realization through a chain of totally subjective reactions. His struggle towards the realization is a series of efforts, pains, satisfactions, refusals, decisions, which also cannot be fully self-conscious, at least on the aesthetic plane. The result of his struggle is a difference between the intention and its realization, a difference which the artist is not aware of.
I want my street to be crazy, I want my avenues, shops and buildings, to enter into a crazy dance, and this is why I deform and distort their outlines and colours. However I always come up against the same difficulty, that if all the elements were one by one deformed and distorted excessively, if in the end nothing remained of their real outlines, I would have totally effaced the location that I intended to suggest, that I wished to transform.
‘Art’ is a Renaissance invention which has been carried to a state of extreme refinement in the present day. This is the so-called ‘abstract art’!
The production of good works of art was achieved only at the cost of an enormous concentration upon certain matters. This concentration could be achieved only through neglecting ‘life’, through the very loss of life- just as religion had experienced before. ‘Today this situation is no longer tolerable’ Today life is paramount. Modern life in general rejects all tendencies towards isolation and ivory tower-like exclusiveness. It is absolute un-modern to concentrate upon just one thing (as did the middle Ages!) Modern life is based upon the construction, which is to say, upon a system of tensions or the neutralization of the system of carry and support. In agreement with this concept we too must distribute our vitality over the whole range of life taken in the broadest possible sense. All other attitudes towards life produce tragedy.
Light in nature creates movement in colour. The movement is provided by the relationships of uneven measures, of colours contrasts among themselves and constitutes Reality.
How do things stand, now, if the subject contains a large element of pathos?… …Consider such an interesting subject as the scene taking place around the bed of a dying woman, for example; seize and render that ensemble by photography, if that is possible (a very recent invention, circa 1853 - the editor): it will be falsified in a thousand ways. The reason is that, according to the degree of your imagination, the subject will appear to you more or less beautiful, you will be more or less the poet in that scene in which you are an actor; you see only what is interesting, whereas the instrument puts in everything.
I assure you, no art is less spontaneous than mine. What I do is the result of reflection and study of the Old Masters. I know nothing about inspiration, spontaneity, temperament.
- ‘Up there!’. Wonderful words! All my life has been dominated by these antagonisms: high and low. In my childhood I tried desperately to be high up.
- There was nothing left between me and the void. I must have spent several minutes lying on my stomach with my eyes closed to resist its almost invincible attraction.
- Most of my readers will have felt the sensation of suddenly falling into the void, just at the point when sleep is going to take them over completely. Waking up with a start, your heart convulsively trembling, you don’t always realize that this sensation of vertigo is a reminiscence of the expulsion of being born… … All those who throw themselves into the void have at bottom only one desire, to be reborn at any price.
Beauty in art is truth bathed in an impression received from nature. I am struck upon seeing a certain place. While I strive for a conscientious imitation, I yet never for an instant lose the emotion that has taken hold of me. Reality is one part of art; feeling completes it… …Before any site and any object, abandon yourself to your first impression. If you have really been touched, you will convey to others the sincerity of your emotion.