Sunday, July 24, 2005

On The Artist

It is important to recognize the distinction, but also the connection, between these two aspects of human activity. The distinction is clear. It is one thing for human beings to be the authors of their own acts, with responsibility for their moral value; it is another to be an artist, able, that is, to respond to the demands of art and faithfully to accept art's specific dictates.

This is what makes the artist capable of producing objects, but it says nothing as yet of his moral character. We are speaking not of moulding oneself, of forming one's own personality, but simply of actualizing one's productive capacities, giving aesthetic form to ideas conceived in the mind.

The distinction between the moral and artistic aspects is fundamental, but no less important is the connection between them. Each conditions the other in a profound way. In producing a work, artists express themselves to the point where their work becomes a unique disclosure of their own being, of what they are and of how they are what they are. And there are endless examples of this in human history.

In shaping a masterpiece, the artist not only summons his work into being, but also in some way reveals his own personality by means of it. For him art offers both a new dimension and an exceptional mode of expression for his spiritual growth. Through his works, the artist speaks to others and communicates with them. The history of art, therefore, is not only a story of works produced but also a story of men and women. Works of art speak of their authors; they enable us to know their inner life, and they reveal the original contribution which artists offer to the history of culture.
John Paul II, Letter to Artists

Image: Rosenthal ' His Maddona'


Kelly Jo said...

Wow! Someone's been busy posting lately - I love JPII's "Letter to Artists." His insights into culture always intrigue me and this letter is one of my favorites.

Filia Dei said...


And I hadn't thought about the cultural link, but you are totally right: JPII's insights apply to everything a culture tolerates, from chinese plastic dishes made in prisons to explicit music lyrics and substandard films. I'm always intrigued by how people want art to 'affect them' but won't conceed that what it communicates in order to get that emotional reaction is relevant!

I guess that's why I love the image of the boy carving the statue Our Lady that is reaching out to him, while he doesn't even know it.