1963 Ė 1968
Christ on the Sea of Galilee c. 1963 28 x 36 (71.1 x 91.4)
I used to like going to church. Most of it I didnít understand but I always had this feeling that there was a great and profound mystery which had tremendous meaning. When you are a child and you read in the Bible of miracles, you wonder very much. Later all that changes and it becomes an amazingly imaginative idea of the world, based on truth, and written by great poets. Man, through this poetry, is trying to express about his life what is so terribly difficult to understand. He stands in mystery and through it he is trying all the time to understand.
At certain times, one may begin to make drawings and paintings of biblical things. The Bible is full of these tremendously imaginative ideas. They are profound symbols. The richness of the Bible is terrific. It is the greatest stuff that has ever been written.
Jacobís Ladder 1966 16ĺ x 13ľ (42.5 x 33.6)
When one reads the story of ĎJacobís Ladderí one is moved because this early tale is so profoundly rich and profoundly true of this terribly ambitious man. But is this really just Jacobís Ladder? Isnít it perhaps the end of everything for this chap under this night moon?
Still Life with Pear, Cheese and Cup 1963 28 x 36 (71.1 x 91.4)
It all sounds so confoundedly pompous when one puts this into words. But what makes one draw and paint? What makes a Beethoven? There is something very mysterious about being a Delacroix or a Courbet; about being a Manet or a Cezanne; and having this strange, compelling demon which absolutely makes a man go on Ė it doesnít matter through what. Look at a man like Turner. Seen objectively, itís very remarkable how he went on and worked and developed. It is being inspired. A sort of divine state.
I think it is in the artist; and it is he who recognises it Ė thatís the extraordinary thing. How is it that one person is a Handel or a Mozart out of whom this wonderful musicsimply pours; and another man hasnít a note of music in him? There is something very special about these people. One knows what is meant when it is said that all men are born equal but they are not. And one doesnít have to be an artist. Many of the humblest people have this quality.
Ordinarily I donít think along these lines. I just say, what a damned good painting this Gauguin is, or what an amazing, happy extrovert chap Rubens was. We all are, I suppose, several people. But I must emphasize that I donít think that Mozart or Handel or Rembrandt went about thinking ĎI have something divine in me.í They just got on with the job.
Poet 1967 28 x 24 (71.7 x 50.2)
Sometimes my own things frighten me. This does. To me it is as if he has seen every disaster. Last night on the telly, I heard the Jewish cantor Koussevitzky. You listen to that man, and you see the fi lm the Germans Ė these particular Ďlast solutioní people Ė made of the siege of Warsaw. And itís heart-breaking. Once youíve seen something like that, you canít forget it. Itís so unbelievably horrible. Itís criminal the way that human beings can behave. How can they? And at the same time you know that in the world these terrible things are happening. I canít stand a man like Napoleon. The Napoleons or the Caesars are, as far as Iím concerned, all in the same bag. What does all this business of power and ambition and success mean? Itís all politics. Itís terrifying to see the jealously that goes on around one. But apparently sane and reasonable people have these particular qualities Ė so help the others. I think perhaps the normal human-being growing up is all these things. Gradually you learn more and you develop. And you are as reasonable as you can be.
Peleas and Melisande 1966 16 x 20 (40.7 x 50.8)
I met and fell in love with
Kate. You fall in love, you are young and willy-nilly you marry. I can very
easily imagine myself living and working alone and quite possibly, eventually
not taking too much care of myself. But I cannot imagine not being in love. I
should consider that to be a most dreary and melancholy state.
The other evening, I was listening on the telly to a young artist giving a talk on Renoir. He talked about the little nudes, exquisite little nudes they are to me. And one got the feeling from him that Renoir painted far too many of these things. ĎBathing Womení this way, that way, back-view, front-ways. Renoir, as far as Iím concerned, couldnít paint too many naked women. It was absolutely Renoir. He had to do this; and through these studies gradually come some absolute masterpieces. Friends have told me that there are too many Turners in the Tate. If there were twice the number, there still wouldnít be too many.
I canít see it that way. Itís a misconception. Renoir made dozens of these small studies. But this young man didnít see the point. In other words, he canít love to the extent that Renoir was in love with his idea. It was Renoirís theme in life Ė one vast hymn to Nature and the beauty of women. Whether he paints melons or grapes or the sun or flowers or women, that was Renoir. And thank God it was.
Fading Ray of Sun 1968 acrylic 25 x 30 (63.5 x 76.2) AHT
I think that an artist has to go through the whole spectrum. You canít say ĎI like blue, I like redí; it sounds fatuous. To me, purple is a melancholy colour and if anything, it is because of oneís memories. You feel something ghastly is just over; and the next day, if you are a writer or a painter, and you are able, you do something about it. You donít suddenly swing from something sad to something happy. Your work is everything that you experience.
Latterly because I work more freely and because of this miracle that has happened tome, I can leave a painting to dry and pick up another canvas. Before Ė and it is far away and long ago Ė the expense of all these materials worried me desperately; and rather than have several things on the go at once, I preferred to work on one thing, trying to complete it to the utmost. But now, if somebody doesnít like my paintings, I shrug my shoulders and I donít put my foot through them.
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