Artful Violence


Cycle, 10 x 10″ acrylic on illustration board

“One never paints violently enough.”

– Eugene Delacroix

Painting and violence are not words commonly juxtaposed. We often think of painting as a refined activity, one in which we connect with our gentle spirit. Painting calms us, allows us to achieve an almost meditative state. So what place has violence in this serene tableau?

I think Delacroix (who was a French Romantic painter) is commenting on passion and abandon in painting. Violence is defined as “swift and intense force”. When we unfetter our passion as we paint, the force is palpable. When it is “swift and intense” we often sit back and look at the result and wonder “where did that come from?”. And often these pieces are our most satisfying, having bypassed our common ways of thought, our conventions and comfortable patterns. Leaving all that behind leads to an exciting place.

It is challenging to paint “violently” – letting go is not something we do often in our daily lives. What is great about art is that it is a safe place to do so. If the word “violent” offends, substitute “passionate”, but be sure that your passion is swift and intense!

7 responses to “Artful Violence

  1. Great, powerful stuff you got lately, bob! Some are quite violent, too (passionate, whatever…) I was pleasantly surprised to see your progress and experimentations with acrylics on board… And no doubt there are a lot more where those came from… And, yes, Delacroix is one who knows something about violence and passion; when you paint quickly (swiftly, if you want) and with violence (or energy or whatever) the results are sometimes quite surprising! I think like yourself this is perhaps one legitimate way to use « violence»…

  2. You see Bob, it must be because I am French, but I do associate painting and violence, in exactly the way you describe it. I associate also painting with internal freedom, and freedom and violence are quite close in my range of things.
    Simply because the own freedom often means the violation of somebody’s else’s interests…
    In this sense I have lived my life “violently”, always, and still do, although i am a really soft and tender person. No contradiction here!
    I will digress a little bit now, but only because for me everything is connected. My aim in life was always to meet persons who allow me to live in freedom without me having to be “violent”. Kevin is the only one I found so far, and I must say that I was right with my search. Such people are the key to personal happiness…
    And to come back to art, I believe that we can reach happiness in it only if we paint free and violently (according to your definition)…

  3. This one is so satisfying!
    And I’m so tempted to grab a brush and pull forth that purple bird I see shedding his yellow feathers…

  4. Jude

    That’s why I resist doing that type of thing in the piece itself – not doing so allows each viewer to make that decision for themselves. Each choice the artist makes eliminates potential choices the viewers might make.

    Or maybe I’m just too indecisive!

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