Upon researching famous 19th and 20th century artists, I have noticed that my opinion of their artistic works changes somewhat when I learn more about them. The backgrounds of artists also affects my opinion of them, whether they came from royalty or nothing at all. None of these factors have altered my tastes in any extreme fashion yet, but I have noticed that I am often reluctant to look into the details of the life of a new artist that I am studying out of fear of not liking them any more.
I think I might feel differently than you. For me, often an artist's background offers another layer of depth to their art. For instance, knowing the struggles that van Gogh faced during his life makes me appreciate his painting even more. Often, the times that an artist lived in, or their family situation, or religious beliefs, or lifestyle creates another lens through which to view and consider their art, and understand why they were creating the art that they did. Just my opinion.
What about learning that the person was a womanizer? Or that they were a physically violent person?
Didn't mean to ignore this comment, which was not up when I wrote my comment below. The traits you speak of would definitely turn me off to the artists. I might still appreciate their art when I saw it, but I wouldn't follow their art. I might even avoid seeing it.
I can see both points of view. 1) enjoyment of art better without knowing about the artist's life, and 2) enrichment from knowing about the artist's life. My opinion: it depends on the artist and what you learn about them.
I was a great fan of Picasso's art. Then I read "Life with Picasso" by Francoise Gilot, Here's how the publisher described this book: "Francoise Gilot met Picasso during the German occupation of Paris, [when] she was twenty-one, [and] he was sixty-two. For nearly a decade, Gilot shared her life with this giant of the art world, giving birth to two of his children, working as his model, and sharing his world. This uniquely candid and vivid memoir takes readers behind the Picasso legend to meet the man."
Gilot's book greatly influenced my view of both the man and his art. His acquisitiveness, along with his shoddy treatment of most of the women in his life -- these turned me off to such an extent that I became less interested in seeing his art.
At one time, I was very interested in Salvador Dali and read his autobiography, "Diary of a Genius." I was amused by the book title and looked forward to a witty "diary." Imagine how astonished and appalled I was to read so much about Dali's bathroom habits! However, it didn't diminish my appreciation of his artwork.
If you'd like to see a fascinating documentary film on the Impressionists -- one of my favorite group of painters -- check out "The Other-French-Revolution." I learned some, to my mind, unpleasant things about Monet. That didn't, however, affect my enjoyment in seeing his paintings.
I'm an artist myself, my mother was an artist, and I have a number of artist friends. The struggles that my mother and my artist friends have gone through has enhanced my interest in their art. However, some of my photographer friends have turned me off by their lack of passion for their art. In reaction, I stopped keeping up with their photos on Flickr, which I used to look at weekly, and ceased showing their photographs in my e-zine "Art Online."
In a sense, you are both right. One certainly can lose interest in artists' works when learning too much about their lives. But the reverse is also true. One can become even more appreciative of artists' works after learning more about them. It all depends on the artist.
What a thoughtful and thorough response. I have made a note for myself to watch "The Other French Revolution". It is amazing how we see the artworks of these artists, but really that is only a window into the depths of the life of the artists themselves. Some artists, like Picasso, make it very evident that the people in his life affected his creativity and even his subject matter. When it came to his muses, he made sure to immortalize Picasso's women. Do you have any other books or documentaries about specfic artists to recommend?
The only other book that I can think of at the moment is Jansen's "History of Art." It's comprehensive. I've only read parts of it. If you're interested in film, Martin Scorsese's "A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies" is very interesting.
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