Art Student: Realist or Abstract Art?

I found this quote in A Concise History of Modern Painting– my current bedside book.

“To paint an autumn landscape I will not try to remember what colours suit the season, I will be inspired only by the sensation that the season gives me; the icy clearness of the sour blue sky will express the season just as well as the tonalities of the leaves. My sensation itself may vary, the autumn may be soft and warm like a protracted summer or quite cool with a cold sky and lemon yellow trees that give a chilly impression and announce winter.”

Autumn Landscape with Boats - Kadinsky 1908

Autumn Landscape with Boats – Kadinsky 1908

It is a dense read that usually puts me to sleep, but as someone who never pondered over Matisse’s artwork I found it to be interesting …and awakening to learn his thought process. I found the original source of the quote, Matisse’s “Notes of a Painter” (1908), which was an insightful read. It brought a new perspective to the ongoing discussion with my friend, who is an art student, on the awkward yet somewhat forced transition of realist to abstract art for art students – at least in the School of Museum of Fine Arts. It is hard to jump into abstract art. In fact, Matisse would believe that you can’t. It would not be true to yourself. To do so as Matisse described, would be like to copy another person’s quote without truly believing it. It’s easy to say, “I have a dream,” but that does not mean they believe it as Martin Luther King Jr. has lived it. An artist’s rules are only those of his own. His work is his expression of what is reality. Matisse’s work gets more abstract the more he defines himself and his theory. Abstract art should not be imposed on any art student as the most expressive and mature type of art. A student needs time to mature; forcing him to jump the gun will cause him to lie to himself.

The counter-argument is that art is made to be viewed. Culturally, that has been the trend. Artists like Warhol or Hirst play to the crowds and are influenced by the business of art. They have a completely different philosophy towards art than introspective artists like Matisse, Munch or most artists before Pop Art (feel free to correct me if I am wrong). So as an art student, what should you do? Should you stay true to yourself and find your lenses or should you make art to please others. Does gratification come from discovering yourself, or does it come from what others think of you? The answer I believe is that there is nothing wrong with either as long as you stay true to your personality and you aren’t deceiving yourself. If not, then why are you creating art?

I am no art student, and would not consider myself knowledgeable about this subject. I do find it interesting and would be happy to stand corrected. Feel free to offer your perspective. 


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