All right. So you don’t want to have to read a whole tiresome essay every time you take a peek at my blog. That’s fine with me, as I’m really not feeling like writing an essay today. Yes, I have finished my degree course. Yes, I have my final results. Yes, I’m very happy with what I have achieved. And yes, I am having a party to celebrate.
So who’s this guy on the left?
This is ‘The Philosopher’, an early drawing by Michelangelo, made in pen and ink in around the late 1490s.
I’m into pen and ink at the moment, especially with red earth ink, oh, and of course black, using the finest nib, which is my favourite. But to draw like this, how amazing.
Yes, I have had my last feedback tutorial today, and yes, that’s the last time I shall go into college for one of those. As things stand. Who can tell what the future holds? For some reason I enjoy writing essays, and I hope to go on to do further study which will allow me to indulge this strange fancy. And college has been muttering about offering an MA course for a couple of years now. By the time it’s available, I might have got the money for the fees together. So you see, I might be back in college sometime in the future having another tutorial after all. Stranger things have happened. . . . .
In the meantime I have a couple of exhibitions to prepare for, and I’m looking at drawings by Michelangelo to help me on my way.
How about this for a drawing? ‘Ideal head of a woman’ made with black chalk.
Along with the rest of the world, I find this man’s skill breathtaking. Not pen and ink this time, just chalk. Can you imagine making something like this with chalk?
The Curator of the Courtauld Gallery in London has described a particular body of Michelangelo’s drawings as “extremely complex and beautiful works”. I think this applies to the vast bulk of his drawings, and here’s a good example.
Here’s another chalk drawing, ‘Study for Adam’ made around 1511.
And that’s what Michelangelo is so famous for, for the painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, for which this was a rough sketch (!)
But what’s not so well known about him is his skill in writing poetry, and as I step away from the safe harbour of college and face the tossing waves of making my own way in the world as an artist, I’m looking at a sonnet he wrote towards the end of his long and successful life.
Here it is:
At last my life’s course, in its fragile barque
Has crossed the stormy seas to reach that port
Where all arrive and give due account
For every deed done ill or piously.
I see now how error-bound was that fond dream
That made my art an idol and a king,
A thing that men contrarily desire.
What will become of amorous dreams, so vain
And once so glad, now I approach two deaths?
One is for sure: the other menaces.
No painting and no sculpture can now soothe
The soul which turns towards that divine love,
Arms spread upon the cross to take us in.
More food for thought. And before you make some disparaging postmodernist remark about religion being irrelevant, you have to agree that there is still something in our conscious experience as creatures that ultimately craves something more than even art can offer. One of art’s great experts was aware of it. Was his early drawing of the thinker revealing as much about himself as about his skill with pen and ink? Perhaps Michelangelo had more of the philosopher about him than he’s often credited with. Go on, argue with me!