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 Post subject: Rodin on Artist and Nature
PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 3:16 pm 
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This is not strictly bonsai, but it might help some who aspires to express nature in bonsai. Rodin was a great admirer of nature, and he strongly believed that an artist cannot improve nature, but see and discover the essence of nature. The following are quotes from him on how an artist should wiew nature.
"In fact, in art, only that which has character is beautiful. Character is the esssential truth of any natural object, whether ugly or beautiful; it is even what one might call a double truth, for it is the inner truth translated by the outer truth; it is the soul, the feelings, the ideas, expressed by the features of a face, by the gestures and actions of a human being.."
"Now, to the great artist, everything in nature has character; for the unswerving directness of his observation searches out the hidden meaning of all things. And that which is considered ugly in nature often presents more character than that which is termed beautiful, because ... in all deformity, in all decay, the inner truth shines forth more clearly than in features that are regular and healthy."
"And as it is solely the power of character which makes for beauty in art, it often happens that the uglier a being in nature, the more beautiful it becomes in art."
"There is nothing ugly in art, except that which is without character, that is to say, that which offers no outer or inner truth."
"Whatever is false, whatever is artificial, whatever seeks to be pretty rather than expressive, whatever is capricious and affected, whatever smiles without motive, bends or struts without cause, is mannered without reason; all that is without soul and without truth; all that is only a parade of beauty and grace; all in short that lies, is ugliness in art."
"When an artist, intending to improve upon nature, adds green to the springtime, rose to the sunrise, carmine to young lips, he creates ugliness because he lies."
"When he softens the grimace of a pain, the shapelessness of age, the hideousness of perversion, when he arranges nature - veiling, disguising, tempering it to please the ignorant public - then he is creating ugliness because he fears the truth."
"He is even confidant of nature. The trees, the plants talk to him like friends. The old gnarled oaks speak to him of their kindliness for the human race whom they protect beneath their sheltering branches. The flowers commune with him by the gracious swaying of their stalks, by the singing tones of their petals - each blossom amidst the grass is a friendly word addressed to him by nature. "
"For him, life is an endless joy, a perpetual delight, a mad intoxication. Not that all seems good to him, for suffering, which must often come to those he loves and to himself, cruelly contradicts his optimism. But all is beautiful to him because he walks forever in the light of spiritual truth."
"Yes, the great artist, and by this I mean the poet as well as the painter and the sculptor, finds even in suffering, in the death of loved ones, in the treachery of friends, something which fills him with a voluptuous though tragic admiration."
"His extasy is terrifying at times, but it is still happiness, because it is the continual adoration of truth."

These are the words of the great Rodin, as described in the book "Rodin on art" by Paul Gsell.
I hope you find these words inspiring.


Last edited by Attila Soos on Sat Mar 04, 2006 3:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 3:20 pm 
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Rodin has always been one of my favorite artists, thank you for sharing these words of his.

Will


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2006 9:19 am 
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Truth in Bonsai, that's an interesting concept. Perhaps this is, if not an endorsement for the Naturalistic style, at least an affirmation of it. During our discussion of style and art and all the other things that go with it there seems to me to be a weeding out of the absurd, ridiculous and scornful aspects of the art that do not fit into the rigid and controlled aspects of the Japanese model. Hopefully in the end we will be able to somehow define what the Naturalistic style is and put it in a bottle for future reference.
Again in all these discussion I have made the point that it is the Japanese style that is the most documented, analyzed, defined, practiced and taught because over time we been privy to that documentation. The Chinese style, though older in tradition---technically, but in actuality not much older than twenty-five or thirty years, understanding that the communist cultural revolution almost wiped it from the face of the earth as a Petty bourgeois pastime of the rich and elite. There is scant little information on this form and the ideas, ideals and philosophies that make it up. The Naturalistic style/form is even less defined on paper. Some may chide me saying, Do you want someone to write a book? Well-----yes---- that would be nice. The way things are at this moment we are left with the Daniel San, Mr. Miyogi moment where the famous words were spoken: Think tree Daniel San. Any one serious about bonsai to this point has remarked at that little bit of bonsai wisdom as being kind of simplistic and misleading. But now we may be discovering that Mr. Miyogi knew what he was talking about-----go figure.
Though there is a desire to understand and learn other forms, without some way to break down the fundamentals of these other forms we are left groping in the dark. In essence we are left with looking at these trees, admiring them and then analyzing them for our selves. In short we will at some point define them artistically and in doing so coin a bunch of rules to fit the form.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2006 7:52 pm 
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If anyone would best be suited to writing that book then I would assume it to be Walter Pall, as he seems to be the most skilled proponent of the style.
Perhaps we can all chip in and buy him a Dictaphone, so he can verbally write a book during his long flights around the world?


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 23, 2006 8:31 pm 
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There is a possible reason why he does not. I will try to explain by relating a personal story. Both my father and older brother are incredible mathematicians. In fact my brother sends rockets to the planets and I don't mean that metaphorically. Sadly, I am not a brilliant mathematician, I am a mediocre mathematician.
I remember growing up with the challenges I had with the subject. When I would go to my father, which after a while was seldom, he would get angry and borderline abusive because he could not understand why a son of his could not grasp this stuff as easily as he did. Literally, he could not picture anyone having the problems I had. Anyway, I have seen this since, in other areas, where someone who teaches is so far above those being taught and so gifted by what they do they have difficulty telling anyone why and how they do what they do. Because they don't have to think about it they are unable to explain why they do this and why they do that, they just do it.
I am not saying that this describes Walter, or attempts to demean him in anyway. I admire the man and his art. But it is possible that what he does is so second nature to him that describing his method is out side his realm of thinking, and in making an attempt to describe it may in some way diminish his talent to do it.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 12:57 am 
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"Now, to the great artist, everything in nature has character; for the unswerving directness of his observation searches out the hidden meaning of all things."
So, can the true bonsai artist find inspiration in so humble a bit of nature as this poor suburban creature?
pootsie


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 1:18 am 
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That is much truer than you know, Vance. My wife is a commercial artist. Watching her manipulate a computer to convert her thoughts to reality is like watching a skilled magician.
I have tried to get her to teach me how to do it, to help out when she's busy. There is a disconnect between her skill and her ability to teach it to others.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 6:57 am 
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Hector: I'm glad you notice that as well. Contrary to what many want to think much of art, and the Art of Bonsai, as we wish to understand it ,depends on our ability to learn from the masters or at least understand the observable and unique qualities that make the masters' work outstanding.
Another historical event that illustrates the point is the life and music of Johan Sebastian Bach. The music prior to Bach's time was more model in nature, a different method of musical scales and tunings. Bach invented what is call tempered tuning and the well tempered scale, basically the system we use today. Point is this: If you go to a University to study music you can guarantee spending a good deal of time studying Bach and his musical construction, because for all intents and purposes he invented the modern way of looking at music.
Very many of us are not born possessing genius. The best we can do is admire genius, analyze genius, and try to copy genius. If we are lucky and marginally talented we might understand the nature of the genius and develop beyond it.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 10:12 am 
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There are two schools of thought on this matter.
One states there is innate ability, that precedes and transcends learning.
The other states all skill can be learned, and innate ability is a myth.
I can count at least four members of my family who have made a good living as either an artist or a writer.
I would suggest there is innate ability in some. Both my wife and I are watching our son with interest. He is demonstrating an exciting propensity to paint and draw from life or memory. He is also surprising everyone with his ability to produce 3D work that is way beyond his 5 years. Whether it is innate ability or not is open to debate but we noticed his observation skills very early.
There are also those artists whose ability to focus exclusively on their art is due to the peculiar circumstances autism sometimes brings. It seems that we create our art with a part of our brain that may be "powered up" to produce art at a higher level than we expect. Whather that connotes innateness, or not, I am unsure.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 10:22 am 
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As for Rodin's quote: I feel it precludes the artist who is capable of abstraction; the Modernist; the Impressionist; the Cubist... it presumes art is solely the premise of the Naturalist, as I read it.
It may bear relevance to our practice of bonsai, but it seems a disservice to many artists. Perhaps Rodin was merely stating his preference for artistry of a certain type? We'll never know. I'm less than happy to accept his statement at face value.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 11:34 am 
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Right or wrong, your assessment does reinforce the earlier observation of giftedness and an inability to teach, in so much as it points out an iron clad adherence to one's particular point of view. Rodin's genius was so much centered around naturalism that he could not comprehend departing from that viewpoint. As I pointed out earlier often the gifted cannot teach because they never had to learn. Never having to learn, the knowledge of the process of teaching is as illusive as his or her gift is to those of us who do not posses it.
It does not necessarily mean that genius is relegated only to naturalism, and not capable of abstract thought especially if you are equating the quality of genius with that of the Savant. I think the two are totally different. Probably the best example of the universality of genius was Leonardo DaVinci, whose genius spanned a host of subjects from art to engineering, to abstract concepts such as human flight. Maybe his genius was a genius of curiosity, but his works in art would suggest that his genius was manifest in everything he did.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 1:43 pm 
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Quote:
As for Rodin's quote: I feel it precludes the artist who is capable of abstraction; the Modernist; the Impressionist; the Cubist... it presumes art is solely the premise of the Naturalist, as I read it.

I don't believe at all that Rodin's statement that an artist can only inspired by nature excludes abstact art.
Abstract art can be inspired by nature just as much as the mimetic art. Unfortunately most of this thread was initially wiped out by a server outage, and with it, another quote from Rodin stating that an artist does not see nature the same way as a layman does. He goes on saying that an artist has an insight into nature that an untalented person who just copies nature never does. Copying nature is not art. It is just looking. It becomes art when one starts seeing into the essence of nature.
So, abstract art, in my opinion, has such an insight into nature, without the comfort of the outer shell. It is the distillation of the inner truth. A house can be seen as a cube, the moon as a sphere, and a tree as a combination of a cylinder and triangle. In a certain context, this can be just as true as showing a tree in it's actual appearance.
Reality (or nature) has many levels, and abstract art is about showing us different sides of reality.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2006 2:53 am 
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I agree that
Quote:
Reality (or nature) has many levels, and abstract art is about showing us different sides of reality.
but I would still take issue with Rodin's stated position. He doesn't seem to allow much room for any view than his own, in what is arguably one of the most pluralist of all human pursuits... art.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2006 12:12 pm 
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Hector Johnson wrote:
I would still take issue with Rodin's stated position. He doesn't seem to allow much room for any view than his own, in what is arguably one of the most pluralist of all human pursuits... art.

It may be that a strong opinion is part of being a great artist. They passionately believe in what they do, and that's why they are so good at it. When that happens, there is not much room for other points of view beside the one that the artist believes in.
Instead of being "the Jack of all opinions", he rather picks one and sticks to it. That's probably the way to go if you want to truly excell in something.


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 Post subject: Re:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 25, 2006 12:19 pm 
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Chris pootsie Conomy wrote:
So, can the true bonsai artist find inspiration in so humble a bit of nature as this poor suburban creature?

Why not? It's easy to dismiss that young tree after looking at it for a few seconds. But after looking at it for a little longer, I can see in it many beautiful things.
The real challenge for an artist is to take this tree and create an image that tells us something that grabs our imagination.


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