Some years ago I spent an afternoon in the garden of impressionist painter Claude Monet, at Giverny, northwest of Paris. Since his death in 1926 it has been made into a museum – and, apart from the road slashing between house and lily pond – is pretty much as it was when he lived there.
I am a huge, huge fan of impressionism, because of that emotional content. Impressionist paintings are inspirational to look at. And their ideas shortly flowed into other art. Claude Debussy, the French composer (1862-1918), wrote what has been called ‘impressionist’ music, deliberately following the painters in their quest to elicit a specific emotion. Debussy took that a step further, hoping to evince a particular sense of colour in the mind of the listener.
To me, that is what writing is about, too. It isn’t so much about the words or the content – it’s about how those words, and that content, make the reader feel. It is about the author trying to control what that feeling is – using words, structure and control of phrasing and content to create explicit and specific emotions in the reader. That’s true for non-fiction as much as for fiction. And that, to me, is the essence of ‘art’. It is a creation by one individual that elicits emotion in another. Ideally, a specific and intended emotion. And it is defined, as Frank Zappa once put it, by whatever frame we put around it – and by what we decide to fill that frame with.
Writers are artists, just as much as Debussy was – or Monet. And we can draw inspiration for ourselves, as writers in our own medium, from their art in theirs.
What do you figure? I’d love to hear from you.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2012