Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Compulsion to Make Art

It's so interesting how the muse of art continues to whisper into the ear of the artist no matter what infirmity the artist may experience. I can think of so many artists in history who found a way to continue even after they have experienced physical or mental handicaps.

Beethoven continued to compose music even after he was deaf. Van Gogh painted up to the last day before his deteriorating mental state led to his suicide. Quite a few well-known artists of the 19th century would continue to make art even as their ability to see became impaired.

Both Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) and Claude Monet (1840-1926) kept painting in spite of the cataracts each had developed. In Cassatt's case, she went from painting very detailed oils to looser pastels because pastels gave her more latitude and required less detail. Beginning in his thirties, Edgar Degas' (1834-1917) faced diminishing vision. At first, he did what Cassatt did and made the switch to pastels. However, his vision problems continued to worsen.

Degas vision reached the point that he could no longer read, discern colors or see anything with his right eye. He needed to make art and so he began to sculpt. He would eventually make 150 sculptures. The one of the 14-year old ballerina being his most famous.

While the records show that these artists experienced all the emotions of anyone grieving loss, they continued to make art. Why do you think that is? Is there a compelling need to make art? If so, is it as strong in other professions or trades?


  1. It makes me wonder what I would do. I don't know if I could put art out in the world without being sure critically what I was doing. It makes these artists seem heroic to me.


  2. With loss comes grief: emotion. Great art comes from emotion!

  3. Passion is what drives most artists and musicians. If one lives for art and happens upon a road block, they usually find a way around it. An artist unable to creat often feels dead inside.


  4. I just finished reading the life of Clara Schumann. Robert Schumann's wife. He dies in a mental institution in his 40s. She supported the family of 7 and then 6 grandchildren by piano recitals into her 70s and in spite of infirmities. Justine