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An artist friend once old me that if what you want to create has already been done, there is no point in creating it.
I couldn’t disagree more. This painting above, “Yseult”, by Frank Francis Bernard Dicksee (1853-1928), is a painting of a woman at sunset and could be easily seen as a cliche. The subject matter is certainly not un-repeating. But looking at it, one can experience a profound and unique moment. One can feel the vastness of the sea, the isolation and sorrow of this moment as the world is in its utmost beauty, laid open before her, at her fingertips.
So long as one is not blind to her face and the content of the painting, one is being carried away into a powerful emotional experience. To that moment all of us know, of feeling truly alone (not lonely; alone) in a vast universe, no commotion around us to distract us and no cheery conversation that occupies our mind. A moment of facing one’s own life, the reality of one’s own existence in the world and perhaps of one’s mortality. It is a moment of looking at one’s existence in a metaphysical sense.
This painting is grand, yet more paintings with a beautiful woman at sunset, at sea can be powerful. It is not the subject matter that matters – it is how strongly an artist believes in their message – how strongly they are inspired by it and are devoted to that and that alone.
An artist should stay true to their passion and disregard all other considerations in choosing what to create. Nothing one creates in that state of mind can ever be a replica, no matter what physical things one draws upon to paint or how many times they have been painted in the past.
One thought on “Another sunset cliche? I think not!”
A note regarding this painting: I think the moment described is a bit more specific than experiencing one’s existence in the world. The woman is sad, which is not an integral component of that moment. However, the painting definitely has that element, of the metaphysical nature of human existence.
I find this a worthy note to make because otherwise I would be implying that such moment necessarily involves sadness, which I don’t think at all.