An artist who theorises about his work is no longer artist but critic

red paint

You can't paint a picture without an inspiration

“I shall paint a picture exactly as I like,” said Harringay, calmly.

This seemed to disconcert the picture a little. “You can’t paint a picture without an inspiration,” it remarked.

“But I had an inspiration – for this.”

“Inspiration!” sneered the sardonic figure; “a fancy that came from your seeing an organ-grinder looking up at a window! Vigil! Ha, ha! You just started painting on the chance of something coming – that’s what you did. And when I saw you at it I came. I want a talk with you!”

“Art, with you,” said the picture, – ” it’s a poor business. You potter. I don’t know how it is, but you don’t seem able to throw your soul into it. You know too much. It hampers you. In the midst of your enthusiasms you ask yourself whether something like this has not been done before. And …”

“Look here,” said Harringay, who had expected something better than criticism from the devil. ” Are you going to talk studio to me?” He filled his number twelve hoghair with red paint.

“The true artist,” said the picture, “is always an ignorant man. An artist who theorises about his work is no longer artist but critic. Wagner… I say! – What’s that red paint for?”

“I’m going to paint you out,” said Harringay.

by H. G. Wells (21 September 1866 – 13 August 1946)
from The Temptation of Harringay (1929)
image – Caro’s Lines


…as Jackson Pollock put it, “The painting has a life of its own.”

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