Henry Hunt

After posting Graham Brickstaff’s short biography of D H Laven (see below) I see the need to re-consider many of the statements contained therein, a fair few of which lean heavily on the gnarly trees of nonsense. Before then, however, I would like to share with you a few images related to a recently republished article by the great art historian himself. The article can be found here. The images follow.

As you will no doubt know, these images show discarded palettes belonging to the late great artist Henry Adolphus Hunt. A few years ago, these would have been worth almost nothing. Now, thanks to Laven’s work – and a few progressive art dealers – they are sold for thousands of pounds. Hunt’s ‘other work’, unfortunately, has had less success. His ‘actual’ paintings, it seems, are as unpopular as ever. But who wants a meticulously painted canvas when you can have a scrap of oily cardboard instead?

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The Means

If I only had the means, he said, if I only had the means, greatness would be within my grasp. Give me an orchestra, that I might write a symphony. Give me a hundred dancers, that I might stage a ballet. Give me a film crew that I shoot a movie. Give me twenty canvasses taller than horses, that I might paint a mural. Life would be the subject: life in all its colours and shades. Life in all its highs and lows. Everything and nothing. How great it would be! How great I could be, if I only had the means.

She scratched her nose and smiled. A great artist, she said, a great artist works within whatever means he or she has. Prove you deserve the means before you dare to ask for them. Master your whistle and I shall give you a drum. Master your drum and I shall give you a trumpet. Master your trumpet and I shall give you a flute. Master your…

But he was no longer listening.

(From a Livonian folk-tale)

Nothing Has Ever Been Done Before

Following up on ‘Superficial Similarities’ (posted earlier this week) allow me, if you will, to revisit an idea about which I have written, no doubt, a million times before.

In doing so, indeed, I get to the very heart of the idea in question: which is that revisiting ideas is, in itself, a Very Good Idea. Your own ideas, someone else’s ideas, anonymous ideas – nevermind the sources from which they first sprung. I implore you: do not tread so lightly. Take the idea and go. There is no such thing as imitation: only creation. Nothing has ever been done before.

An idea is not born to be admired in itself, precious and safe as a stuffed bird in a glass case, but something to be used, modified, picked up and put down again, thrown across lawns, rolled over tabletops, tossed from one hand to another, sailed across a lake, seized upon, translated, transposed, interrogated, gently perverted, sliced and smoked, poached and pickled, boiled for seven minutes, patted, prodded, painted, re-painted, un-covered, recovered, coddled, cuddled, ever-so-slightly corrupted, silently sewn to another idea altogether, patched up, put to bed, woken up and taken for a walk, abandoned, found, scuffed and loved, shuffled and redealt, wrapped and unwrapped, opened and closed, watched closely for signs of life, put in a drawer, put in a cupboard, put-upon, put out, tried, tested, tempted and taunted.

Pick up an idea, any idea, and run with it. Run with it.

Extra-marital Protocol

It’s been a while since I last buried my old ostrich head into the strange sands of ‘search terms’, so here’s a little something that has for some days been bouncing about like some misshapen rubber ball in the playground of my mind. Sometime over the last month, an anonymous web surfer entered a sentence into a search engine, and ended up at a page in Underneath the Bunker. This was the page – and this was the search term: Does a man love his mistress?

Let’s not throw any time away relating the term to the page. Though the issue in hand may not be explicitly answered in Heidi Kohlenberg’s review of Stephen Harringer’s biography of George Forthwith-James, one can see easily enough why a search engine might think the article relevant to anyone posing what is, at heart, a rather bizarre sort of question. Does a man love his mistress? What kind of answer might our anonymous ponderer be expecting? Is it right for a man to love his mistress? Could there possibly be some sort of consensus regarding the duty of a man who is, essentially, not doing his duty? The question is so beautifully general; so stunningly free of specifics. Does whatman love his mistress? Perhaps our unknown searcher has a mistress, or desires one, or desires love, or desires… what? It’s hard to say what he/she desires; what he/she is after. The internet is a wide, weird world, but it is no oracle, and can no more stand peculiar queries than any of us. And yet it’s nice to see someone put these questions forward; these unfathomable, unanswerable, inexplicable musings, tossed into the air like rare goose feathers, like fine grain, like paper snow, like dry grass in a stiff summer wind.

In honour of this, allow me to answer the unanswerable. If art is a man’s wife, and a man’s wife is his mistress, why then he loves his mistress.

Art / Donkey Poo

‘Some people think that artists feel more than other people. Donkey poo. Artists merely indulge in the ordinary feelings that all of us get. The only thing special about an artist is their presumption that they are special’ (Elmer Rautchberg)