Reading The Journal of Eugene Delacroix (Phaidon, 1995) and I read on p237 on 4 April 1854 that he mused about “the difference between literature and painting with regard to the effect that can be produced by the rough sketch of an idea; in other words, on the impossibilty, in literature, of making a sketch that will convey an idea to the mind, and of the strength with which an idea can be stated in a painter’s rough sketch, or in his first draft.” He goes on to say that music is like literature in this regard: “in music and literature, the near enough is unbearable, or rather, you cannot have what we call the indication, or the sketch, whereas in painting, a fine indication, or a sketch infused with great feeling can be equal in expresson to the most finished production.”

Delacroix of course lived long before Jack Kerouac or Charlie Parker infused literature and music with improvisation, but I think his idea is still fundamentally right.  One painter might make a  huge painting in an evening or a week, while another might spend a year painting something smaller, and both might be equally impressive in final form.  The  fundamental difference is that unlike music, or literature (or movies, or theater), painting makes no particular time demands on its audience – you can take the whole painting in in a glance, though in many cases it would be more rewarding to linger.

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