Defining Art

“And what, Socrates, is the food of the soul? Surely, I said, knowledge is the food of the soul.”

Plato


Defining Art

Here at the Profound Bartender, we are often interested in process when it comes to art and art making. The assumption is that if you can understand the focus on technique and craft then you might take it to the next step and ask the question: what are the techniques for living and how can I craft a life?

But today, we are going to talk about Art. We’re talking about the good stuff here; Bach and Monet and Picasso and Brahms. The big dogs like Da Vinci and what made their work masterpieces that belong in museums and concert halls.

Art is always judged at the time of its creation, not the time of discovery. This is because the artist is responding to something, either an art movement or even another artist. The great piece will not only be savored for itself but also the place in the artistic progression of the movement.

That sounds complicated. Lets use some examples.

The world has been blessed with Paul McCartney. Not only is he a wonderful artist but he is also honest and candid about his work. He has described Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel as amazing. He wanted to write something as amazing and wrote Hey Jude. The same with Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys with the Beatles responding with Sgt. Pepper.

To hear Hey Jude is a treat. What makes it great art is its place in the rock and roll progression. This song will always be placed in a specific place. Never for a second think that Paul wanted to show up Brian Wilson, he was inspired and enthused and responded. That is what art is all about!

Even a cover of someone else’s work can count as great art. Bob Dylan wrote a song called All Along The Watchtower. Jimi Hendrix heard it and was amazed. He covered the song but added a new step in the rock and roll progression.

Plato responded to Socrates and Aristotle responded to Plato. A lively exchange of ideas is what moves an art form forward and places each piece in the timeline. This is why Jackson Pollock is great, his work must be viewed within the advancement of art making; when isolated someone might think, “my kid could do that.” And no, he couldn’t and didn’t.

It would be very difficult to shed new light on Abstract Impressionism. If I were doing that style of painting today, I’d be measured by where we are now; not the time of Monet. The world has moved on.

No masterpiece is timeless. The masterpiece is such at the time of its creation and we are lucky to marvel at the work today in museums and the concert hall, in the perspective (sorry) of the time frame.

If we were lucky enough to be in Italy at the Galleria Nazionale de Parma, we’d be amazed at Di Vinci’s La Scapigliata. But, I betcha in 1508 that it blew their socks off!

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