Sir George Hayter self portrait (left) and Jean-Michel Basquiat's "Untitled" ‘The Fate of Fine Art’ and Other Poetry by Peter Hartley The Society March 6, 2019 Art, Beauty, Culture, Poetry 9 Comments The Fate of Fine Art Too late to turn the clock back on fine art, Egregious oxymoron that it may Be called today, but where to find the start Of this, the slow beginnings of decay? For once we found our world inside the space That we saw bounded by a frame. The height Of charm resided in the commonplace Where now the commonplace is merely trite. And in that world we knew the things we felt, We recognised, the life we saw and thought We knew, the things we touched and heard and smelt And learned and read, the things that we’d been taught. And then it seems the Fauvist movement came Along, divorcing outline, colour, shade And form, each from the other. Should we blame Matisse, for one, the hotchpotch he portrayed? Technique and skill no longer score in art, Nor presentation. Concept counts for all. When craft in execution lost its part For art it proved the writing on the wall. Today’s great works of art are meant to shock, Are often vulgar, utterly debased, Designed to ape the loathsome, out to mock The twee and every benchmark of good taste. The more ephemeral a work of art, Like children’s castle carvings in wet sand, The greater chance that it will fall apart, The higher price it seems it will command. Artists today will brush aside our fears Of transience. They’ve no concern, at heart, For what effect will have the passing of the years On shoddy work and shoddy works of art. Long gone the days when artists would have ground And bound their own pigments, who had the sense To choose the methods that they found were sound While having due regard to permanence. No more can art astound us or confound Our visual acuity or raise Perceptions and our awe, where once we found That it would open up our eyes, amaze Us, make us look and look again in ways We couldn’t see till artists lent their sight To us and then on nature we would gaze Anew to see more clearly in the light. As poetry today must be opaque, Have scant regard for scansion, feet or rhyme, So too in art the rules that we can break Can only lead to anarchy in time. A bandwagon for those without restraint, A permit to create without constraint, A licence to bespatter, daub and taint Their canvases with cheap emulsion paint. Too late to rescue art from all the wrong Publicity it draws, the ridicule, Perplexity and disbelief along With scorn for what shows not a minuscule Amount of talent or ability. The cutting edge of art today is all About sensation and celebrity And arrogance, audacity and gall. It shows how far the talentless can stretch The boundaries of what they’re able to: Some wretch can spend five minutes on a sketch That ends up as a seminal breakthrough For vorticist post-futuristic art. An etching smaller than a postage stamp In fetching multi-squillions, apart From all the kudos for the little scamp, It gets his latest retrospective flown To all the seven continents and sent Off to the Venice Biennale, shown At every single pseudo-art event. Why paint a portrait of a man and try To catch his likeness if you can? Just do A daub with jumbo dung and let it dry, Entitle it “Untitled, Number Two.” If only artists could just stand apart From flagrant self-advertisement and hype And put more effort into so-called art They’d churn out ten times more appalling tripe. The Dark Ages What cultural wasteland could have produced The Book of Durrow and the Book of Kells, A barren tasteless age that introduced The Gothic with the greatest church at Wells. And dark their ages were but for their part They’d not the consummate effrontery To call a pile of bricks a work of art, To pickle sharks, make the discovery That hype and bluster and a name that sells Can turn the most outrageous bottled fart Into the most dramatic work of art. The Book of Durrow and the Book of Kells: Those humble scribes, their fame no-one proclaims: How could we, for they didn’t leave their names. Peter Hartley is a retired painting restorer. He was born in Liverpool and lives in Manchester, UK. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related 9 Responses T. M. Moore March 6, 2019 Peter: You write: Those humble scribes, their fame no-one proclaims: How could we, for they didn’t leave their names. Be encouraged. Some of us are doing are best, like you in this fine sonnet, to put this period and its artists, scholars, and humble everyday saints before the world today. T. M. Moore Reply Peter Hartley March 7, 2019 Dear TMM, Thank you for your remarks about “The Dark Ages”, and it is good to know there ARE people like you who want to bring to light the authors of such amazing historiated manuscripts as these. We need to try to uncover their authorship if we can, as part of our investigation into that period of our lesser-known history, and our attempts to understand it. But not, of course, for the sake of the scribes themselves fifteen hundred years ago who never sought acclaim but gave ALL credit for their meticulous labours to God alone. Reply T. M. Moore March 6, 2019 “our” best, that is… Reply David Paul Behrens March 6, 2019 These poems offer a grand depiction of the state of modern art and how it lacks form and precision, much like modernist poetry. I have often wondered if I could have been a good artist, but I never bought a canvas or any paint. I suppose that could be true for many of us. I enjoyed these poems. Reply Peter Hartley March 7, 2019 David – glad you liked them. It’s difficult to avoid drawing that parallel between the decline in fine art and the decline in other art forms including verse (and the sort of poetry that could be described simply as bad prose, typically with arbitrary line divisions and only the left margins justified). By the way, I bought acres of canvas and gallons of paint and found that I wasn’t. Reply C.B. Anderson March 6, 2019 You paint a grim picture, Peter, and sadly I cannot find much here in your poems with which to disagree. In the last stanza of “The Fate of Fine Art” I find that I’m not quite sure what you are getting at. Are you saying that if artists set aside the hype, then things will only get worse? That’s what it sounds like. Am I misreading it? Perhaps you are saying that so-called artists are beyond redemption. In any event, I applaud the stand you take against the fall of night. Reply Peter Hartley March 7, 2019 Dear CBA, Many thanks indeed for your kind remarks about this little poem. What I had intended by the last stanza is exactly covered by BOTH your interpretations, that these so-called artists are indeed beyond redemption; that the decline in craft and in the ability to clothe artistic creations with a consummate technique is an inexorable progress that I fear can neither be halted nor reversed, that even if some of our infected poets and painters could manage to eschew self-advertisement I’m afraid once they are settled in, the seats on that bandwagon are far too comfortable to relinquish. Abandoning the hype will simply provide more time to produce more tripe. More are going to get on board than alight, if I may pursue the metaphor from two sentences ago, which is in any event not as good as yours. “The Fall of Night” would have been a far better title for my poem! Reply C.B. Anderson March 7, 2019 I have eaten tripe a time or two, and I found it hard to chew and much too salty. More of it is the last thing we need. Peter Hartley March 7, 2019 My grandfather, of whom you may hear more anon, subsisted on a diet of pigs’ trotters and tripe. He had a bullet lodged in his brain at the first Battle of the Somme in 1916 which probably explains this and his penchant for dancing around his local parish hall dressed in a tutu with a yellow top-hat and green aigrette feathers. De gustibus non est disputandum. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.