• Huckleberry
  • Movements of Air
  • Whoever Turns Up
  • Not About Swimming
  • Cool Reds – SOLD
  • Golden Streak
  • Sea Pool
  • Skylight
  • Nebula
  • Home
  • Ground Control to Major Tom – SOLD
  • The Moguls

A QUESTION OF TRAINING



Can anything real be said about a painting other than it’s title and the name of the artist? Unless you’re a Rainer Maria Rilke, that is, the writer, thinker and poet who left us art fans his wonderful book, Letters on Cezanne. In it he describes his thoughts and insights when he returned again and again to look at paintings being shown in the Cezanne room at the Salon d’Automne in Paris, 1907. What’s more, he lets you see how he looked, which in the foreword is called ‘an intensity of perception ‘. He admits that when he was younger he would not have had ‘the right eyes’, he’d would not have noticed, say, the range of blues in Cezanne (‘thunderstorm.. self-contained blue…waxy blue…wet blue’) He also recorded his eye-opener thoughts on Van Gogh, after a friend allowed him to borrow a folder of van Gogh’s work. Besides Cezanne and Vincent the whole book is a mine of original thinking on so many different things.

Although he deprecated his qualifications as a critic, I doubt anyone has viewed paintings as respectfully, intelligently or perceptively as Rilke. Moreover, he had no axe to grind, nothing to sell, not even his views. He only wanted his correspondents to share all he derived from being in the presence of this great work, after he had stayed with it, hollowing himself out so it could reveal itself to him, the rapt student. I for one have a lot to learn from him. I hope you can find a copy of this little book; it’s an revelation to us all.