The Basic Teacher
|art||disgust||complex - simple|
LOOKING AT PICTURES
"I'm surprised to see you here, old man. I had no idea that you were interested in art."
"I'm not. Never was. My daughter made me come. She said the pictures on view here were the latest thing. One has to keep in touch with what's going on, doesn't one ?"
"Quite right. But different persons have different tastes. To me, some of these things seem very beautiful, but you may not have the same feeling about them. Let's have a look at them together. I'll be interested in seeing what your opinion is."
"Good. You're an expert on this sort of thing, and, judging by what I've seen, I'll be needing a guide before I have got very far. What, for example, is that a picture of ? I've been looking at it for quite a long time but I'm quite unable to say what it is. This blue is possibly the sky, though even that is not certain. I've never seen the sky such a dark blue. It it is, then the orange circle may be the sun, and the yellow one is probably the moon and the brown one the earth. But what are these lines ? Are they representative of the attraction between the sun and the earth and the moon ?
"You are starting with a wrong question. This painting isn't a picture of anything. It is a complex design made by putting together simple forms such as circles and lines."
"But there's nothing in it. It might have been done by a little boy with the help of a box of instruments."
It's not as simple as it seems. Certainly little boys make circles and lines on paper, but the effect produced is generally not very beautiful. The attraction of this is in the relation between the forms and the colours, don't you see ?"
"No, I don't see. There's not art in a picture of this sort. It's a waste of paint and canvas to do such things."
"Didn't I say that tastes were different ? The trouble is that you are not looking for the right things in these pictures. Your idea is that a picture has to be 'natural', or representative. For you, the important thing is to give a name to what you see, and if you aren't able to do this the picture has no value. 'That is a picture of a country road,' you say. 'An old man with a red nose is pushing a small cart with firewood in it. A young man is in a carriage pulled by two black horses. He is not very expert at driving. He is putting on the break and using the whip at the same time. A boy is getting water from a pump at the roadside.' And so on. And the more natural the picture is, or, in other words, the more like it is in every detail to what you yourself have seen or might see on a country road, the better you are pleased. Isn't that so ?"
Certainly. When a man does a painting, he is attempting to make a picture of something, and it is only when the painter isn't expert enough to make a good copy of what he sees that he says he wasn't attempting to do this at all, but something quite different. Let me give you an example. My daughter has a painting of a horse. It's no more like a horse than I am. The painter clearly had no knowledge of the structure of the animal. Its bones and muscles are all wrong. My daughter says he was painting the rhythm of motion, but it's simply a bad picture of a horse."
"I take the opposite view. If art is no more than expert copying, it seems to me that painters are wasting their time. Why not let the camera do it ? But there's more to it than that. Art is a process of selection. A good painter never put into his pictures simply what the camera sees. He makes use of a selection for the purpose of producing a certain effect he has in mind."
"A picture of this sort isn't a selection from anything the painter has seen. It's an Invention.
"That's where you are wrong. Let us say that a painter sees a young woman's arm. He sees something beautiful. But what is beautiful ? You would no doubt say it was the young woman's arm, but the painter might say, 'No, it isn't the arm as an arm. It is this curve, this angle, this effect of light on the skin.' And these things might give him an idea for a picture which wasn't a picture of the arm at all. From a selection of the qualities of the arm which seemed to him most beautiful he would make a new design."
"This discussion is getting a little deep for me. I don't give much attention to theories of art. My views are based on common sense."
"What's 'common sense' but a name for another theory ? However, don't let's have another argument about that. You came here to see the pictures. Here's another one. What's your feeling about this one ?"
"That !" Disgust that such as thing is put on public view. It isn't a picture ; it's a trick to get the attention of the art experts. How is it possible to make anything beautiful by pasting buttons and old newspapers and bits of copper and tin and cloth on cardboard ? There's a place for everything and the place for waste is most certainly not inside a frame. It's dustman's art."
"Is the value of a work of art so dependent on what it's made of ? Much of the paint used in pictures is only a special sort of earth, but you are not disgusted by that fact. We are looking at the picture from the wrong angle and there is not quite enough distance between us and it. It wasn't made to be viewed from so near. But come here. At this distance one doesn't see what it is made of. It's more an ornament than a picture. Isn't it quite a pleasing design ?"
"No, I'm still disgusted by it and if this is the sort of ornament we are to have in our houses in the future. I have no regrets that I am an old man and will probably be dead before such thing are seen about everywhere. Are all the rest of the pictures like this ?"
No. There are some things in the second room which you may be more interested in. Let's go and have a look at that great picture on the end wall, for example."
"The one with the stage in front of it ?"
Yes. The stage is there because the painter is doing something to the sky. He is painting some flowers in it. The picture is a little surprising. "
"How strange ? Flowers in the sky and pots and tins and wings ! A man with a mass of green jelly in the place of a head and two bits of sugar for eyes !" And he is walking on water ! Is the water solid ?
"No. The painter got the idea out of the Bible."
"But what is the picture about ? I'm completely at a loss."
"The pictures you are used to are produced by the conscious mind. This is, or is said to be, the art of the unconscious mind. It's the sort of thing a man sees in his sleep. Interesting, isn't it ?"
"Is it ? I have another word for it ! If that had been produced by my unconscious mind I'd say that I was going off my head. What is your opinion of it ?"
"It seems to me a step in the wrong direction. The painter is less interested in pleasing the eye than in shocking the mind. It's a picture of ideas, like those pictures which are stories in paint. You've got one in your house of a man who has done a violent crime in a wood and is looking with fear at the blood on his knife. Stories and ideas may be put into words. The sounds and senses of words are the instruments of the writer's art, not the painter's. His business is with form and colour, which are outside the range of words."
"Theories again ! They get us nowhere. This disgusting picture has nothing in common with any picture in my house. What's wrong with a picture which gives a story ? It makes it more interesting."
"I don't seem to be of much help as a guide, do I ? I'm only making you angry. You might get more pleasure from the pictures if you saw them by yourself."
"No. It was kind of you to take me round but I've seen quite enough. I'm going now, and you may be certain that it will be a long time before my daughter sends me to see any pictures again."
surprised to see : surprised by seeming. To with an operator is used after adjectives such as surprised, pleased, disgusted in this sense.
on view -- exhibited, on exhibition.
the latest thing : This is, the most recent fashion.
what's going on : An idiomatic way of saying 'what is happening, what is in progress'.
persons have different tastes : By expansion, a person's taste is the sense with which he experiences tastes (In the same way, smell is the sense with which we experience smells). As a further development from this expansion, our tendencies to like certain things are called our tastes. The sorts of things we have a liking for, we are said to have a taste for, and a person whose artistic, etc., judgment is approved or disapproved of is said to have good or bad taste.
an expert on : Note this use of on/ One is an expert on a subject but an expert at doing something.
needing a guide : Anything which indicates a direction or the solution of a problem is a guide, but the word is used in a special sense for a person who points out things of interest or shows the way.
judging by what I've seen, I'll be needing == if I judge by what I've seen (my conclusion is that) I'll be needing. As will be seen from this, further use of the -ing phrases is to indicate a condition on which the rest of the statement depends for its truth or applicability. This simple development of the use indicating a preceding action or state of the subject is very common with the passive construction, with being unexpressed. Painted white (that is, 'if they wee painted white') the lines would be clearer.
unable to say what it is : In connection with pictures, etc., be may be used in the sense of 'represent'.
I have never seen the sky such dark blue : Note that be is omitted before such a dark blue. We almost always omit be in this construction after see.
the earth == our planet, the surface of which is largely composed of earth.
this painting : by expansion, painting == 'representing in paint', and a painted picture is called a painting.
the attraction between : When a feeling, etc., is mutual, it is talked of as existing between two persons or things. Compare with 'relation between' later in the Step.
there's nothing in it == there is no skill, etc., in it. this is a common derogatory phrase.
not as simple as it seems : by expansion, simple may be used, as here, in the sense of 'easy'.
certainly : In its straightforward use certainly == 'with certainty', but it is frequently used, as here, when submitting some facts as true or (see later in the Step) as a sign of emphatic agreement.
the attraction of this : The pleasing quality of something, which draws one to it like the physical force of attraction is called attraction.
'natural', or representative : Or may be used to introduce an alternative way of expressing something. Compare with 'And the more natural the picture is, or in other words, the more like it is . . . , which occurs later in the same speech. Note the phrase in other words.
firewood == wood for lighting a fire.
roadside : The roadside is the edge of the road.
does a painting : Do is used with painting, etc., in the sense of 'create, execute', it is also used in a similar sense in connection with written works.
simply a bad picture : In addition to its straightforward use, simply may be used as here, in the sense of 'nothing but, only'.
I take the opposite view : By expansion, opposite is used, as here, in the sense of 'contrary, completely opposed'. In this sense opposite may be used as a noun, generally with the.
he makes use of a selection : Selection (compare with invention) may mean either the act of selecting or what is selected -- which is often, as here, a group of things.
a certain effect : Certain may be used like some in referring to persons or things as particular but unspecified.
this effect of light on the skin : Effect is used here in the sense of 'appearance'. It has a general use for 'effect on the eye, ear, artistic sense, of the beholder, etc., produced by something.
a little deep for me : by expansion, deep == profound.
based on common sense : based is always used with on and means 'founding on' ; so based on == found on, having as a base. Common sense == sense in its expanded meaning of 'practical good judgment'. It is so called because it is regarded as what should be the common endowment of the common multitude without special gifts.
it's a trick : That is, a subterfuge. The clever tricks by which a conjurer, etc., does things on the stage frequently deceive the audience, and so any deception has come to be called a trick.
by pasting buttons : The word paste is specially applied to the sort of paste used as an adhesive, and the -ing and -ed forms takes their sense from this alone. Pasting means 'sticking by means of paste', and may be followed, like fixed, by in, an, in, together, etc.
a place of waste : By expansion, waste is 'refuse, material left over or unfit for use'.
dustman's art : A dustman is a man who collects the dust and other waste from houses.
disgusted == caused to have a feeling of disgust. Note that the derivatives of disgust belong to the same group as those of interest (see Step 24).
from the wrong angle : Angle may be used for 'direction from which an object is viewed', and in this sense is naturally used with from.
viewed == looked at.
from so near == from a point so near. Note that from may be used before near, far, etc., in this way.
at this distance : distance is used after at, from, and so on if it us named a point instead of a stretch. The complete idea is : 'at, etc., a point or place separated by this, etc. distance from the point in question.'
tins : The name tin is given also to 'tin plate', and a receptacle made of this is a tin.
completely at a loss : At a loss is an idiom meaning 'perplexed'.
the Bible : The English name for the Book of Holy Scripture.
going off my head : To go off one's head is an idiom meaning 'become mad'.
shocking == causing a mental shock to. There is no sense of the -ing and -ed forms corresponding to the root sense of shock. Note that the derivatives of shock belong to the same group as those of interest (see Step 24).
a wood == an area covered with trees (that is, by growing wood), a forest.
the sounds and senses of words : The sense of a word or statement is its 'meaning', that it conveys to the mind.
outside the range of words : by expansion, the word range comes to have the sense of 'scope', and the reason for this development is easy to see from this example. One thinks of the power of words stretching a certain distance, as a range of mountains does.
in common with : By expansion, things owned or shared by more than one are said to be common property, etc. From this we get t he idiom in common or in common with, used adverbially after have in the sense of 'jointly'.
of much help : Note this idiomatic use of of. A thing is said to be of help when it gives help or has the power of helping. Compare with of interest and of use, which were noted earlier. Of is similarly used with value.
it was kind of you to take : Note this construction, which is very commonly used in place of 'you were kind to take and son on.
you may be certain that == you need have no doubt that. By expansion, certain (that or of ) == 'convinced, having no doubt (that, of)'.
1 . Describe in Basic what you see in the above pictures, introducing as many new words as you can.
2 . Use the following in sentences:
(a) wise of (d) on view
(b) an expert at (e) at a loss
(c) an expert on (f) disgusting
3 . Answer in Basic :
(a) What is firewood used for ?
(b) What does a dustman do ?
(c) What is a person who takes one round a town or building pointing to things of interest ?
(d) What is another way of saying 'looking at' ?
(e) If two persons are interested in art, what may we say that they have ?
4 . Give a short account in Basic of your taste in pictures.
5 . Use each of the following words in two different sentences :
(a) certain (d) tin
(b) wood (e) painting
(c) earth (f) opposite
6 . Fill in the blanks in the following sentences :
(a) These two men have no tastes _____ common.
(b) the judges were seated on the stage while the selection of pictures was going _____.
(c) After the _____ _____ his head, he became very violent.
(d) The question is so complex that I am _____ _____ _____.
(e) If he has any _____ sense he will not go back to the place where he did the crime.
7. Translate into Basic : Teacher Link
8 . Answer in Basic :
(a) Why was the first man surprised that his friend had come to see the picture ?
< Step 33
Step 35 >
(b) Give an account of the first picture which was looked at.
(c) What, in the first man's opinion, gave the picture its attraction ?
(d) What was the second man's opinion about pictures of this sort ?
(e) Why was he not pleased with the picture of a horse which his daughter had ?
(f) What does a painter do which a camera is not able to do ?
(g) What might a painter say about a beautiful arm ?
(h) Give an account of the second picture.
(i) What was the second man's feeling about it ?
(j) Why was he not getting the best view of it ?
(k) What was in front of the picture on the end wall in the second room ?
(l) Give an account of this picture.
(m) What did the first man say about it ?
(n) The first man said something about a picture in the second man's house. What was it a picture of ?