Sweet perspectives

July 29, 2009

Posted by Nick Sarno


I’m currently reading Margot and Rudolf Wittkower’s Born Under Saturn which, despite a slow beginning, is actually an amazing book. The thesis of the book is, basically, that artists are regular folk. Most of the “mad” artist type springs from the Renaissance, when artists needed to distinguish themselves from craftsmen. You know, to make patrons feel like they were getting their money’s worth of an essentially useless product. (So, just because you’re a painter, you don’t get a free pass for peeing in my fireplace.) The book also has lots of examples of mad artists doing mad things. My favorite comes from the chapter titled “Obsession With Work”.

Of Paolo Uccello, the story goes that “…without ever pausing for one moment, he pursued his studies of the most difficult problems in the art of [perspective].

“Because of these investigations he remained secluded in his house, almost like a hermit, for weeks and months, without knowing much of what went on in the world and without showing himself. Spending his time on those caprices, he knew, while he was alive, more poverty than fame.

“He left a wife who used to relate that Paolo would spend the whole night at his drawing-board trying to find the rules of perspective, and when she called him to come to bed, he would answer: ‘Oh, how sweet is this perspective!'”


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