Art Influences Writing

“I was learning something from the painting of Cezanne that made writing simple true sentences far from enough to make the stories have the dimensions that I was trying to put in them.  I was learning very much from him but I was not articulate enough to explain it to anyone.” (A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway)

It’s a common theme on my blog to explore how art, music, and writing are interconnected. I see it so often and it influences me so greatly that I feel I must come back to it over and over again.

I recently saw this painting on a research blog of one of my favorite writers, Sandra Gulland. She posted about the backstory of this painting, La Mort de Murat by Jacques-Louis David,  1793:

There’s so much history with this image. It brought to mind the paintings that inspired Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring or Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue. Just imagine the novel one could write about it.

For me, inspiration most often comes through music. I believe that singer/songwriters are the most perfect forms of genius. Talents for writing, singing, and instrumentals wrapped in a single person are awe inspiring. I stand in admiration of the emotions they can elicit through a three minute song. David Gray hits me as a current singer/songwriter genius. Others who’ve spurred the muse for me are Paul Simon, Ray Lamontange, and Tori Amos, to name a few.

Sometimes I find a work of music, writing, or art so perfect it discourages me and makes me want to stop trying to make my own. I read Byatt’s Possession, or listen to Tchaikovsky’s Morceaux (18) For Piano, or look at this

and think that it can’t be done better, ever, so it’s futile to try.

But Hemingway’s words–his self doubt and frustration–reassure me that we all must. If we’re lucky enough, we’ll find just the right way to transmit the truth asserting itself through our work. If not, we have at least expressed it the best way we can.

And that is all we can do.


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