Art is beautiful, like mankind.

(Picture courtesy of flicker.com.)

When he removed pictures of working class people from his statehouse in Wisconsin, Scott Walker was introducing another front in the Class Warfare the right wing is conducting.   The debate over the subject of common laborer has been an issue since the feudal period when nobility paid well to have its portrait painting.   The battleground has been the field of decency and humanity.

The battle to make government separate from the people has taken place in art over the ages.   A breaking point was found when common laborers were first ennobled in the studios of the art world in Paris, when that was the standard of art for all the world.

When Millet painted common working people, his work was immediately condemned, because the ruling class in France felt challenged.   They fought against common folks, as we see today from right wing warriors against the rights of workers to a decent life.

In fact, Millet was an original genius, whereas the teachers at the School of Fine Arts were careful and methodical rule-of-thumb martinets. They wished to train Millet into the ordinary pattern, which he could not follow; and in the end, he left the school, and attached himself to the studio of Paul Delaroche, then the greatest painter of historical pictures in all Paris. But even Delaroche, though an artist of deep feeling and power, did not fully understand his young Norman pupil. He himself used to paint historical pictures in the grand style, full of richness and beauty; but his subjects were almost always chosen from the lives of kings or queens, and treated with corresponding calmness and dignity. “The Young Princes in the Tower,” “The Execution of Marie Antoinette,” “The Death of Queen Elizabeth,” “Cromwell viewing the Body of Charles I.”–these were the kind of pictures on which Delaroche loved to employ himself. Millet, on the other hand, though also full of dignity and pathos, together with an earnestness far surpassing Delaroche’s, did not care for these lofty subjects. It was the dignity and pathos of labour that moved him most; the silent, weary, noble lives of the uncomplaining peasants, amongst whom his own days had been mostly passed. Delaroche could not make him out at all; he was such a curious, incomprehensible, odd young fellow! “There, go your own way, if you will,” the great master said to him at last; “for my part, I can make nothing of you.”

(snip)

In 1848, the year of revolutions, Millet painted his famous picture of “The Winnower,” since considered as one of his finest works. Yet for a long time, though the critics praised it, it could not find a purchaser; till at last M. Ledru Rollin, a well-known politician, bought it for what Millet considered the capital price of five hundred francs (about L20). It would now fetch a simply fabulous price, if offered for sale. Soon after this comparative success Millet decided to leave Paris, where the surroundings indeed were little fitted to a man of his peculiarly rural and domestic tastes. He would go where he might see the living models of his peasant friends for ever before him; where he could watch them leaning over the plough pressed deep into the earth; cutting the faggots with stout arms in the thick-grown copses; driving the cattle home at milking time with weary feet, along the endless, straight white high-roads of the French rural districts. At the same time, he must be within easy reach of Paris; for though he had almost made up his mind not to exhibit any more at the Salon–people didn’t care to see his reapers or his fishermen–he must still manage to keep himself within call of possible purchasers; and for this purpose he selected the little village of Barbizon, on the edge of the forest of Fontainebleau.

That mankind in general was subject of art was at revelation level in those years.  Since then, we have evolved and the democratic government that our constitution set up adopted the principle that all men are created equal, and it is our right to be what we can achieve, with the protection of the government.

The basic principles being shredded by right wing rejection of the rights of men to equality is a crime, and ruination of civilization that we have earned a right to.  That art is also threatened is no surprise.   In art we usually see the beginnings of new and nobler concepts, from a tainted oast.

What is beautiful is always a matter of personal choice, and taste.   Rejecting the beauty of our fellowmen is a mark of the ultimate criminal mind, and that is what we have dictating the choice in Wisconsin.

Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.

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