An Essay Picked by blupete

"Artists and Critics."
By Arnold Bennett

There is a one-sided feud between artists and critics. When a number of artists are gathered together you will soon in the conversation come upon signs of that feud. I admit that the general attitude of artists to critics is unfair. They expect from critics an imaginative comprehension which in the nature of the case only a creative artist can possess. On the other hand, a creative artists cannot do the work of a critic because he has neither the time nor the inclination to master the necessary critical apparatus. Hence critical work seldom or never satisfied the artist, and the artist's ideal of what critical work ought to be is an impossible dream. I find confirmation of my view in other arts than my own. The critical work of Mr. Bernhard Berenson, for instance, seems to me wonderful and satisfying. But when I mention Mr. Berenson to a painter I invariably discover that that painter's secret attitude towards Mr. Berenson is - well, aristocratic. The finest, and the only first-rate, criticism is produced when, by an exceptional accident, a creative artist of balanced and powerful temperament is moved to deal exhaustively with a subject. Among standard critical works the one that has most impressed me is Lessing's "Laocoon" - at any rate the literary parts of it. Here (I have joyously said to myself) is somebody who knows what he is talking about! Here is some one who has been there.

-- Arnold Bennett (1909).


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Peter Landry