An Artist never Creates in Isolation 

Chantilly, France

I visited the exhibit "Picasso et les Maitres" today at the Grand Palais in the center of Paris. The exhibit is explained as "210 works from the world's leading collections illustrate the inspiration Picasso drew from the great masters." The reserved tickets are sold out months in advance and if you don't have a reservation, you can stand in line for hours to get in. It can therefore be described as a real "event".

The exhibit juxtaposes a selection of Picasso's works with works from other painters which served as the inspiration for Picasso's art. I did find it very interesting. It provides a perspective on an artist and his inspiration which one rarely finds in a museum.

It's very easy when one visits a museum to look at each work in isolation. The visitor rarely has any insight into the context in which the work was created. This you have to find in the art history books, but I think it's fair to say that few people take the time to do any research before visiting a museum.

I came away from this exhibit with the impression that the development of an artist is very complicated. An artist is very much a product of his environment, his associations with other artists, and the past.

Take Van Gogh for example. In the television series on art history developed by Simon Schama, it is clear that Van Gogh was also very much influenced by the history of art and by other contemporary artists - although he started to paint very late in life and his style was quite distinct from anything that had been done before.

What does this say about originality? Can any art be said to be truly original, if it is in part derived from the past and borrowed from the present?

Is it then just not possible to become an artist from one day to the next? I wonder if there are any cases of a successful artist developing in relative isolation, creating works completely without influence from art and artists of the past and present?
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