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Worldly Goods

If we are creating art, are we creating it for other people? Do we find ourselves modifying what we do to ‘sell’, like producing a reality TV show, rather than scripted drama, because it’s easier?

Lisa Jardine in her book “Worldly Goods” argues that this has been going on since there was a market to support artists. She refers to the commissioning of religious art by rich businessmen who had presumably had to make some pretty dubious decisions over the years, and paying for these expensive, religious artworks such as altar pieces, or architecture, would buy their way to heaven. The result are stunning masterpieces that survive to this day. Also, those great artists would always find ways to express what they wanted to express, regardless of the commission, and the purchaser could just darn well learn to live with it.

Even in the 20th century, we have the story of Matisse and his client who ordered a ‘blue’ painting, but at the last minute Matisse painted over all the blue and made it red. And so, we have the “Red Room”.

Are artworks that are blushingly commercial actually any worse artworks for being so? Does great art of necessity need to be isolated, unpopular, uncomfortable?

History would suggest not.

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  • TRConnie May 22, 2009, 11:45 am

    Matisse is one of my absolute favorite artists. He was so committed to his art that in his waning days he painted from bed with a brush attached to a fishing rod and the canvas taped to the ceiling. Such commitment!

    I’m so glad Owhole introduced me to your blog. Just spectacular!