So recovering, I was able to accept and participate in a large show in New York in April. Then" />
The sad truth about Pablo Picasso and the need for true standards

The sad truth about Pablo Picasso and the need for true standards

by Charles Harris
article from Friday 14, September, 2018

DEAR READERS, It has been some time since I have last written. My apologies. The delay, and an inability to the find the time, were caused directly by my work outside in the challenging Scottish weather last Winter. We did not experience a Spring here in my part of Perthshire, but instead one long, wet and cold Winter. Happily I was busy with the Kinkell Bridge painting, which of course overran due to the many practical difficulties with working outside in this weather, but other things did improve for me, especially with my foot injuries. 

So recovering, I was able to accept and participate in a large show in New York in April. Then after a small break in Italy for a friends wedding, and with some small watercolour painting, I begun with this year’s Summer painting. And the weather was wonderful. So I worked again flat out to catch up, I haven't finished yet, but it has been a happy time. 

Nevertheless, despite my private efforts, the difficulties that have existed in our art world in Britain have not changed or improved at all.  So I mused I should offer the following thoughts, which from the title above may seem controversial, but I hope will prove of help and of interest to readers here.

Thus beginning directly, with regard to our art institutions in Britain, it was and still is considered politically correct today to say: “Picasso was a great painter and he lead art into a better new era.” The reality, however, is somewhat different, for as with sport, or all other aspects of work and skill, this statement had to be proved in practice. 

And here is the problem, for it is simply not true. His paintings are not comparable with the giants from the past in the Great Tradition, which lasted six hundred years. And of these giants, the first three hundred years were Italian and the second three hundred years were mainly French, with a sprinkling of other nations, Dutch, Flemish, German, two Brits and Velazquez, who was the great painter from Spain, that achieved those impossible high standards in Art – not Picasso.

And all knew each and one another, inevitably through the efforts they made and passed their skills onward, e.g. Rafael was the student of both Michelangelo and Leonard, and Rubens taught Velazquez how to model in the round. 

Picasso too, having made himself famous through self promotional marketing, was aware of this difficulty of proven 'standards' and with his chum, later set out to make Traditional paintings. They couldn't do it and this episode was quietly brushed aside, hidden by subsequent modern artists riding this new modern art gravy train agenda. 

Naturally, they did this with help from many an art critic or journalist, all now wanting to be seen to be modern and trend-setting, all talking about shallow modern art which could be viewed from a marketing perspective, and promoted as different and new.

There were no proven standards to worry about, just say whatever came into your head, that was so easier to explain; and without any social, moral, or religious standards to worry about either; gushing and enthusiastic, they were freed from a huge and inconvenient lack of skill-based knowledge needed from the past, to now promote, sell, and justify these poor Modern things in the 20th century. 

Yet amazingly, considering mankind experienced two world wars and one cold war, nothing was done in Art to improve or change this living contradiction of abandoned standards. Instead, every city in Britain, every town, and large village with shops promotes this failure in art and lost ability.

Indeed a lady working as an official in a library recently, having discovered I was an artist, carefully explained to me how Picasso had unravelled the traditional drawing skills he had carefully learnt, and gave art a free expression. I said nothing much through this monologue. What can you say? It is all too hard to contemplate. 

Yet one never ceases to be surprised about how can anyone talk about something like Art, without having practical skill and experience. It is hard to imagine them getting away with it in almost any job, be it clerical, physical, or practical. For there is always a need for learnt common sense, practical ability, or trade skills and experience.

As with all such matters it was quickly obvious she had never learnt how to draw.  Instead she pulled out a plastic key fob. She said, “Its wonderful to see expressive words cut into plastic or metal with a laser-torch.” Dundee University Art department has one. I wonder how much it cost? 

If you live near Dundee you will see pieces of rusty metal erected as art with words cut in them with a laser-torch. I thought myself, here is that perfect trendy word again so much in use. For Art cannot be called art any more, especially when officially describing art courses for university exams. Instead it is politically correct to call it ‘Expressive Art.’ Yet despite this trendy wordage, I understand from a qualification promoter and examiner, that art is no longer taught in primary schools, as a valid subject today.

And for those of you with doubt, who may think this sounds like an extreme situation, let me assure you it is not. I stopped using social media entirely several years ago, when my posts mentioning any criticism of modern conceptual art were taken down immediately after I had posted them. Improperly, this is still a false reality from start to finish. There is no sympathy or compromise whatsoever between supporters of modern conceptual art and those few practicing traditional painters today. 

For today's established politically accepted view, is just one of hidden vested interests, agenda and intolerance. While for public consumption, the correct political view offered regarding traditional artists is that they are regrettably misguided – just nostalgic dreamers who don't know the century they are born in, or gifted amateurs who couldn't be expected to go into the deep end of experience.

So last week I had to give a presentation about the value of Art and it was very difficult. Much of the occasion was about people ignoring whatever I said - not wanting to step outside of their accustomed view, comfort zone and ideas they had long held. In my presentation I did mention this failure of modern art ideas and its subsequent failure in social values for our society today.

I was talking about how art can and could help, rather than ignorantly just confront society. I spoke of how a young man had rushed up and introduced himself to me in Perth, He said, “You may not remember me, but you taught art along with my friends.”

Then I recalled he was part of a group of young tear-aways I met near my parents’ house.  I said to them, “Instead of breaking and destroying things why don't you make something instead.” So I invited them along to one of my masterclasses without charging them a fee. Anyway, standing in the High street recently he said, “You changed my life by encouraging me to think about the pursuit of excellence. I am now a sports coach.”

I was really touched by this. (Hands fanning my face!)  Afterwards he sent me a lovely testimonial too. So I thought this was a good story to tell, but I could see from the faces, that some thought I should never have had anything to do with tear-aways, who we also call hooligans. They would not have been comfortable doing this themselves.

So I hope I may encourage more consideration about the words ‘politically correct’. I am sure it was well intentioned when it begun, but in practice today it does seems too often to represent some deliberate agenda that is being promoted at everybody else's expense and is not literary doing what it claims.

I will end today with some better news regarding the future prospects of Art. At the beginning of this piece I mentioned how I had returned to show in New York in April. This was after a long absence created by two subsequent injures to my foot and work before that on the Italian Earthquake Appeal. So as I hadn't been for a while, the changes I witnessed in attribute this year deserve a great hearty cheer. So do also expect to see changes here in Britain soon too at last, I am very happy to report.

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