Saturday, December 15, 2007

De la Ligne

"What is line? It is life. A line must live at each point along its course in such a way that the artist’s presence makes itself felt above that of the model... With the writer, line takes precedence over form and content. It runs through the words he assembles. It strikes a continuous note unperceived by ear or eye. It is, in a way, the soul’s style, and if the line ceases to have a life of its own, if it only describes an arabesque, the soul is missing and the writing dies."

"Line... sounds an imperishable note, not able to be perceived by the ear or the eye. It is, as it were, the style of the soul…"
Jean Cocteau, "De la Ligne" in La Difficulté d’Etre [The Difficulty of Being] (1947)

What Cocteau says about the line is just as true for the brush stroke, of course. If you know me well, then you know I am a great fan of Cocteau and that his work was tremendously influential on me in my formative years. In my experience, our early, formative influences are the ones that run unflinchingly through the rest of our lives. Sometimes, I'll go back and watch a film that hit me hard or read some quote by an artist who I thought the world of in my early 20's or late teens or even at the age of 11 and wonder if I already understood the world in the way that the filmmaker, artist, composer or songwriter did and in their confirmation of my view found kinship. Or did I take away from their work something that opened a new door of consciousness and became a part of my developing self? Maybe a little bit of both.

Here's a classic example of Cocteau's own line. Not to be mistaken for anyone else's.

Jean Cocteau Profile of Orpheus

And finally, what I think is the cutest picture of Cocteau with Brigitte Bardot. I have no idea where I found this but in the caption below Bardot says
An unforgettable meeting with Jean Cocteau during a gala dinner at the Opera. He said to me, "I lived as everyone by being like no one."

See my paintings at Landscape into Art.

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