The Artist Speaks, Envoy, Feb 1951
John Ryan asked five Irish painters to contribute to a symposium of artistic opinion. Louis le Brocquy, Nano Reid, George Campbell, Gerald Dillon and Patrick Swift all wrote short and succinct pieces.





No real painter ever wants be known through any other medium than his painting. At the same time it is to be regretted that in these days of professional art criticism so much should be written in so boring a manner about the subject. Now, as in the past, the only worth while things said about paintings are said by painters, good painters. There is no reason for the issue to be confused by post hoc chat about representation, reality, truth, beauty, abstraction and so forth:

We all know art is not truth — Picasso

And no good painter ever has a message, nor have the themes a painter uses anything to do with the quality of his work:

Grandiose subjects have nothing to do with the
matter but only the talents, the power and love
of whoever treats the subject
— Rouault

Any painter who thinks he has something to say to the people, or anything to contribute to the world of ideas or literature, is treading dangerous ground; the influence of literature on painting is at all times dangerous if not deadly. Painting is a visual art; and the job of the artist must be to create in visual terms the tension experienced. One cannot argue or explain in paint. The aim is not to put in everything that will help, but as little as one can help, so that a picture is in one sense a 'sum of destructions'. It is a question of honesty and courage:

One produces only the necessary — Degas

And there are no rules. Picasso again:

What a miserable fate for a painter who adores blondes to have to stop putting them into a picture because they did not go with the basket of fruit.

In this respect technical criticism in particular is the despair of the artist. No one but an idiot would offer a poet his comments in terms of spondees and trochees; why must the painter daily suffer the indignity? Any picture which makes one conscious first of its technical qualities, good or bad, is not a good picture, whatever else it may be. And the idea of technical progress has caused great confusion, especially among the young who imagine that they should take up where Picasso left off:

The several manners I have used in my work
must not be taken as an evolution or a step
towards an unknown ideal of painting
. — Picasso

The fallacious idea that a painter 'experiments' is harmful to the simple-minded, who conceive painting to be a game in which one casts about in all directions in a effort to hit the jackpot. The only indication of an individual vision is an individual style:

What I seek above all in a picture is a man
and not a picture
— Zola

It is also a mistake to imagine that such a thing as the stupid genius exists, or did at any time. Good painting is not produced by any unintelligent following of inspiration or temperament. Every genius is a great intelligence:

Of inspiration, spontaneity, temperament, I know
nothing
— Degas

You may know a good painter by his habit of work: a good painter works constantly.
And finally, everything written about art is profoundly unimportant; most of it, unfortunately, is also boring, except for the statements of a genius about his art, which always have interest because of his work. For this reason I may, I think, be excused the quotations. A last word from Degas: 'Art is deceit'; and Van Gogh: 'to be simply honest'.


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By Swift
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Nano Reid - Some notes on Caravaggio - Italian Report - The Artist Speaks - X magazine - RHA Exhibition 1951 - Eça de Queiroz & Fernando Pessoa - The Portuguese Enigma - Notebooks - All
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About Swift
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Main
Patrick Swift: An Irish Painter in Portugal - IMMA 1993 Retrospective Catalogue - Dublin 1950-2 - By His Friends - X magazine - Poems - Further Quotes About - All

By His Friends
Anthony Cronin - John Ryan - John Jordan - C.H.Sisson - Martin Green - John McGahern - David Wright - Lima de Freitas - Katherine Swift - Tim Motion - Lionel Miskin - Jacques D'Arribehaude - Brian Higgins - George Barker - Patrick Kavanagh

Further Quotes
Brian Fallon - Aidan Dunne - Derek Hill - Brendan Behan - Lucian Freud - Patrick Kavanagh - Elizabeth Smart - Further Quotes About
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