One man that has always eluded me, an artist that always since a child captured my imagination was a chap called Byron. It was never his poetry itself, which with age I have grown to admire that so pinched my imagination but the rock star lifestyle and monumental swagger of the man. The womanising, drinking and madness I’ve come to enjoy personally with maturity, embedded somewhat in those early days spent exploring biographies for heroes as young boys do. It was this idiosyncrasy that had me so engrossed.
This begs me to ask. How often is it the artist him/herself that clings to our ideal of art? I mean, if it wasn’t for the back-story behind the paintings and poetry, sculptures and prose would your favourite work still be that. Can the two points even be mutually exclusive? Without the artist there would be no art, it’s perhaps the extraordinary lives of these individuals that provides the fuel which heats the hue of our rooms through prints and canvas or decks out our bookshelves so profoundly.
For example; I found myself thinking Ezra Pound wasn’t as good because in the end, regardless of his work, he didn’t get much sex (parking the fact he was a filthy fascist also). Subconsciously to me he could never be as good as Byron to me and yes, this is wrong but a prime example of why the back-story must delight as much as the work. The greatest artists are renowned just as much for their personalities and character, the stories are as profound as their masterpieces: Byron, Shelley, Caravaggio, The entire Bloomsbury group, the pre Raphaelites, Jim Morrison and the beat generation to name but a few.
Is it through the debauchery and madness that so enchants these characters that they gain the experience which fuels great art? Is the fact the greatest artists seemingly have entertaining lives linked and only by coincidence produce the most popular work. Or is the mixture of experience and sensitivity that produces great back-stories, leading onto creative genius not entirely exclusive to the end result? It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation or is it a mixture of the two?