Category Archives: art (modern)

The rot in Paris

Art as a kindergarten activity for adults who want to feel special

Ambling through the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter, Dalrymple notices that an exhibition, called Happiness 17, is being staged by students of the National High School of Fine Arts. Hopefully, he drops in; but favourable his impression is not — far from it. He writes:

If anyone should want evidence of the collapse of the Western artistic tradition, he could do worse than to go to the annual exhibition of the graduates of the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris. No city in the world is more saturated with that tradition than Paris, and therefore in no city is the collapse more painfully obvious.

Free of charge, warm and dry it may be, but we will not go in there and be near that rot

Entry to the exhibition is free of charge,

but even so, not many people take the trouble to enter, not even the schizophrenics cared for in the community or homeless Syrian migrant families (actually, mainly Albanians) who hold out paper cups to passers-by for alms.

The ‘art’, Dalrymple says,

is too painful to be endured, even by them; the discomfort of inclement weather is nothing in comparison to that occasioned by the products of modern art teaching and theory.

He points out that

it is not globalisation that has produced this effect upon artistic judgment; the rot is internal to the art world itself, as has been the rot in the humanities departments of our universities.

He points out that

the loss of belief that there is anything sub specie æternitatis has rendered art trivial, no more than a kindergarten activity for adults who want to feel special and whose thirst for self-expression is greater than anything they have to express. Moral and æsthetic capital is not expended all at once, but gradually; it is run down steadily until none remains. As Felicità 17 demonstrates, none remains.

 

Cheap, childish artefacts

Dalrymple points out that the professional caste of cognoscenti have

consistently applauded the trivialisation of art

and its relegation to the status of

financial speculation at best, a game for children showing off to the adults at worst.

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Integrity in art

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 09.10.30L.S. Lowry, Dalrymple explains,

ploughed his own artistic field for years, decades, before he achieved recognition: and when such recognition came, it did not change his simple mode of life. He had a day job until his retirement at the age of sixty-five of a most unromantic and unartistic kind: he worked as a rent-collector for a property company in the days when tenants of tiny workers’ houses paid their rent weekly and in cash. He painted between collecting rents.

Lowry saw

in the bleak townscapes of the Industrial Revolution, and in the inhabitants of those townscapes, a subject worthy of artistic representation, as nobody had before: finding a beauty in them without in the least prettifying them, or without resort to sentimentality.

The Tate Gallery had a fine collection of Lowry’s work, but

for long refused to display any of it, mainly from a kind of snobbery. Lowry was utterly a provincial, he was allied to and influenced by no current of modern art, theoretical or practical, and (in the end) he was widely loved by people who otherwise had no artistic tastes. He was original in an original way. For a certain kind of æsthete, for whom the main attraction of the appreciation of beauty is to mark him off from the philistines, Lowry was all wrong.

Even worse,

Lowry did not care what anyone thought: he did what inner necessity dictated.

Ancoats Hospital Outpatients' Hall, 1952. Whitworth Art Gallery, ManchesterAncoats Hospital Outpatients’ Hall, 1952. Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester