Monday, November 12, 2007

Major artists, according to WH Auden

Thanks to Martin Cowan:

“I came across this in last Sunday's Observer compilation from its archives. WH Auden was writing in 1971 about Stravinsky after his death, but his words seem rather apt for someone else we know:

“ ‘The minor artist, that is to say, once he has reached maturity and found himself, ceases to have a history. A major artist, on the other hand, is always re-finding himself, so that the history of his works recapitulates or mirrors the history of art.

“ ‘Once he has done something to his satisfaction, he forgets it and seems to do something new which he has never done before. It is only when he is dead that we are able to see that his various creations, taken together, form one consistent oeuvre. Moreover, it is only in the light of his later works that we are able to properly understand his earlier.’ "