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Portrait of the artist as a young master

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TALENT or genius in art takes several forms. It can manifest itself as an unusual knack for transforming the appearances of nature into exceptionally harmonious or provocative images; as a heightened sensibility for color, line, design, or characterization; as a flair for imaginative subjects or compositions; as a passion for novel formal ideas or expressive devices; as an insatiable drive to give voice to a vision, feeling, or ideal; or as a combination of several or all of the above. Needless to say, very few artists possess even half of these in full strength. And the combined creative forces that result in a Michelangelo, Rembrandt, or Vermeer are exceedingly rare. Most painters, even some of the most important, must learn to compensate for an insufficiency of one quality or another, or must work to bring a weaker skill up to the level of the strongest. On a scale of 1 to 10, C'ezanne was unquestionably one of the greatest ``10s'' of all times in matters of formal vision and organ izational skills, yet as a draftsman he barely rates a ``3.'' Picasso, on the other hand, may have been one of history's greatest draftsmen, but as a colorist he deserves no more than a ``4.''

Most younger artists of talent have one or two special skills and sensibilities, a certain amount of imagination, and enough determination and ambition to get them through at least several years of difficult working conditions and almost certain art-world indifference. Some may draw beautifully, others might have an outstanding color sense, solid compositional gifts, or a powerful and well-directed passion for paint. In the process of becoming more accomplished, a number will focus on their strengths an d avoid all areas of weakness, others will do their best to broaden their expressive range, and a few will try to transcend matters of talent and skill and to address themselves exclusively to the dominant formal and thematic ideas of the day.


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