monamy & turner

Art & Imitation

Artists imitate. That's what art is, imitation. Some artists imagine they imitate nature, and some critics imagine some artists imitate nature. Other artists know they imitate other artists: they either allude to their imitation, pretend they aren't imitating, or do everything they can to be unimitative. Some artists imitate themselves. Some artists skip imitation altogether, and exhibit themselves. Once an image has entered an artist's eye, however, it can never be erased. That's why art by the very young is always fresher than the art of the slightly less young. Artists who know themselves exploit the art of other artists, as a form of self-expression.

brooking & turner

manet & cézanne

picasso & manet & cézanne

guess who

Picasso imitated Manet and Cézanne, or Cézanne and Manet. Salvador Dali imitated Leonardo da Vinci. Hockney imitates his polaroid snapshots. Magritte imitated the thoughts of his mind. Warhol imitated anything he laid eyes on. The apprentice imitates his master, or reacts against him. "All poetry is a reshuffling of a pack of picture cards, and all poets are cheats." Tom Stoppard, 1975. There is nothing in the artists's mind which was not first in his senses, or in his hand which was not first in his eye.

The unwelcome truth is that Monamy had more in common with these 19th and 20th century practitioners than with many of his predecessors, and for the same reasons. There was no point in anyone seeking to outdo the perfection of photographic detail and surface finish of the 17th century Dutch school, and there never will be again. The last to attempt it in the marine genre was Charles Brooking.

One fundamental distinction between Dutch and English painting, in my less than humble opinion, is that the Dutch School, even in the marine genre, is inward-looking, whereas the English is outward-looking --- a psychological orientation which is better suited, in a way, to the marine genre. What can match the inner intensity of the best Dutch domestic interior painting? Its English equivalent is only found in literature, in works such as George Herbert's The Elixir, for instance. When discussing with Joan Stevens, of La Société Jersiaise, the true facts of Monamy's Channel Island origins, I remarked to her that "nobody is interested in the truth", and she rather sadly agreed. "Dare to be true", says Herbert, "nothing can need a lie". This noble sentiment, regrettably, does not hold for those elevated custodians of our national heritage, the Arts & Humanities Research Board, and their hireling placemen.

the slavish imitator
monamy & turner
"other famous masters"
marine painters
monamy website index


© Charles Harrison Wallace 2003
all rights reserved