Sunday, January 4, 2009

Passion, Art

Caravaggio paints Bacchus (1593-1594). Reading about Caravaggio makes present day celebrity gossip (with a few exceptions) seem tame. He was a drunk and a murderer. But just look at some of his paintings, here. The passion is extraordinary. "Bacchus" is one of his quietest paintings.

Unlike many, he was famous and extremely influential during his lifetime, and almost entirely forgotten in the centuries after his death.

I re-read the opening verse of Petrarch's Canzioniere, below, a few times after I posted it. Thinking about the poetry, music and art of the past and comparing it, say, to a sitcom of life today, well. . .are our lives that pallid? I don't know who those people on television are, to tell you the truth, so I can't answer this question well. At random, I chose CBS's Gary Unmarried from their line-up as a comparison. Do you think this Gary character would write 366 sonnet verses to his girlfriend or wear a wreath of flowers around his head (without drinking a case of beer first)?

I certainly wouldn't want to live in the 15th century. I wouldn't have lived to the age of 12, due to my health, and as a woman, my life would have been more hellacious than the average man's. So, no, I'm not romanticizing the past. I'm just wondering why most of the arts have been so devoid of passion.

Wait just a minute. There's plenty of passion in music. Not in the "high arts", no, but I could go on for an hour listing the musicians who have poured out their souls. I do forget, as I go for long periods without listening to anything newer than the 17th century. . .and yesterday I was listening to a sample of latest from Trent Reznor and thinking he was maybe worth listening to again.


jmcleod76 said...

Genius and insanity/instability are such close companions - two sides to the same coin, really.

Reminds me of Roy Acuff's quip that Hank WIlliams had a "million dollar voice, but a ten cent brain."

I love Caravaggio, and I can't imagine anyone who buckled under the constraints of convention painting with such brilliance and vitality.

Of course, history - and the present - are filled with sane, quiet geniuses, too, but they just don't capture my imagination the same way.

Julie H. Rose said...

Oh so true.

I am keeping myself from quipping about Hank Williams III.

My one-month long novel was going to be about this subject, but I figured that was too big a nut to crack in my first speed-written novel!

The idea proposed, though: in the not-too-distant future, we've conquered disease and mental illness. People live to about 300, but they've become incredibly boring. They have no questions, no conflicts, nor do they have passion. The narrator is from today, 300 years old, and marvels at the childlike 100 year olds who are playing kickball outside his window. Sure, kickball is great, but not one of his offspring has ever sought to do more than this, marveled at the wonders of nature or wondered about anything. . .is this a tradeoff that was a good one?