On Painting

On Love in Painting

William L. Lathrop regarding a show at the Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia in 1906: "A big portrait by Sargent. Two portrait heads by Abbott Thayer. The Sargent is a wonderfully brilliant performance. But one finds a greater earnestness in the Thayers. That his heart ached with love for the thing as he painted, and your own heart straight away aches with love for the lover. You know that he strove and felt himself to have failed and you love him the more for the failure."

Excerpt from today's journal entry:

Thursday, April 7
"... I don't know why I was thinking of this on the way home. Actually I do, but it's a long round-about story.... how to describe the love that I have for my paintings, even and maybe especially for the weaker ones. The thought brings to mind something I've heard another painter I admire say about his paintings, that he loves to be surrounded by them. I believe I understand something of what he means. My studio has been filling up with paintings, mainly a lot of small works on paper, but still I've been feeling a bit crowded. They're tacked on the wall and sitting around on every available surface. It occurs to me that I should probably carefully store them away. But I don't want to. They are a kind of energy. I have some sort of very strong love for them. I don't love them because they are "good" paintings. Some of them are stronger paintings; many of them probably are not. But whether they are good or strong or weak isn't the point. I love them because I made them and nurtured them into being. And over time they have quietly become even more a part of me. I could very well be trying to describe the indescribable love that I have for my children. This is not a love that grips tightly, but at the same time, I want them close to me, even though I know that they are meant to be in the world. If love can be measured in volume (and I'm not sure that it can), the comparison falls apart. When I spend long moments in front of them, I'm not sure if each painting contains its own story or if they are each a part of a larger unfolding story. Maybe, probably both. But even more moving for me is the love that I have for the paintings not yet painted. The longing that I have to bring them into being somehow (how?) makes my heart ache and at times brings me to tears."