Proust on Painting

Proust often used paintings as metaphors to bring out the appearance of a character or scene. In Proust on Art and Literature we can read his writings on painters and gain a sense of why he felt so deeply about painting.
Watteau, like Proust, was because of illness nearly incapable of lovemaking, which colored his view of love. 

I often think with a mixture of fellow-feeling and pity about the life of the painter Watteau, whose work lives on as the portrayal, the allegory, the apotheosis of love and pleasure, and who was, by the report of all his biographers, physically such a weakling that he could never, or rarely, taste the sweets of love. So in his art, love, and even pleasure, is overcast with melancholy. (319)             

Watteau - The Scale of Love


 One obstacle to writing that the narrator will have to cross is the idea that art must have an elevated subject. Chardin epitomizes the beauty of the everyday world.       

Chardin has taught us that a pear is as living as a woman, a kitchen crock as beautiful as an emerald. He has proclaimed the divine quality of all things under the light which beautifies them and to the mind which reflects on them. By opening the world to us, he has made us leave behind a false idealism in order to explore an ample reality where, on all sides, we have rediscovered beauty, no longer the dwindled prisoner of convention or false good taste, but free, strong, universal, and it is into the open sea of beauty that he launches us. (334)           



Chardin - The Skate


Rembrandt, for Proust, has found a golden light that allows him to paint “the very light of his thought.”

One cannot doubt that he had realised that this was his own proper light, and that when he saw by it, what he saw became full of riches for him, and fitted to parent other profound pieces of observation in him, and that then he felt the joy which portends that we are nearing some high event, that we are about to create. (339)        


Monet stretches the bondaries of what we can love.
To draw out the truth and beauty of a place we must know that they are there to be drawn out, that gods are everywhere latent in its soil. Part from those places where, on some high and holy day, we ourselves have been granted a revelation, we can only pray on consecrated ground. Certainly it is not a vain idolatry for Monet or Corot that will do our loving for us. We shall love ourselves. But on the threshold of love we are bashful. there has to be someone who will say to us, Here is what you may love; love it. And then we love. (357) 







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