Correspondance between Leo Marchutz and Jameson Jones

Léo Marchutz: The idea of “concealment” is such a tremendous affair it is worth saying something about. I believe the real lesson of the recently discovered (1945) synopia drawings has not yet been understood. They teach us that good drawing was not different in the 13th and 14th centuries, not different from good drawing today or from any period in the history of man. But convention, the use of conventional language, was extremely powerful in the past. Today, however, our liberty is such that it is constantly confounded with anarchy. This liberty is most wonderful if the artist has something to say; and here lies the trouble of our times.

There are hardly any wall paintings whose underlying drawing is not much superior to the finished work (especially for that quality of sacrifice!). There can be no doubt that the drawings are from the master while the execution of the fresco has been done with the help of others, if not totally by helpers. We know by x-rays-investigation that in a still later period there was a convention concerning the finish. Under the smooth surface of many of Titian’s portraits there is a most vivid, spontaneous execution similar to that apparent in his very late works. (We say “late”. I’m not sure they always are. They may not have been finished for the “customers” sake!).

What I want to say is this: if today we still have something to say, this can be done with entire freedom and, in truth, art could start anew.

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While I am writing this, I look at the paintings standing around. I cannot help feeling that there is more reality in these figures than in most of the people I come across daily on my walks to the studio. Looking at these figures is like a dialogue. They tell me what to do next and become silent only when they are all right. That is when they are at the proper distance they require for their breathing and only then do they live on their own.


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