Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

On Fine Art and the Political

The Fine Arts express the apex of civilisations. Traditionally, they were created to give expression of power and grandeur enjoyed by princes, kings and emperors, and all who sought to place themselves at the pinnacle of the societies they subjugated and conquered in order to provide a mirror for themselves and with which to dazzle their subjects.  Received religions employ the Fine Arts as a means to glorify their dogmas.

Such work is flaunting of wealth and power.

With the rise of the bourgeois in Europe, these newly enriched people adopted Fine Art forms for their own purposes in a like manner but, instead of employing writers, scribes, artists, composers and performers as servants, a professional class of Fine Artists emerged whose books, visual output and performances were paid for by their purchase by these newly enriched classes. Their wealth was not such that they could emulate the higher classes in this show of wealth. With the purchase in large numbers of these forms

The rise of the novel and its sisters in the late eighteenth century signalled the beginnings of this movement away from court retinues of art producers. The popularity of these forms ensured that a professional class of artists could support themselves. At least those who caught public attention and tastes.

At the turn of the Nineteenth Century writers turned away from the staid domestic forms  that writers had previously been producing and stove into new territories. The Salon des Refusés and the Vienna Secessionists made a clean break from the established forms of the Visual Arts. Sergei Diaghilev, Igor Stravinsky, Léon Bakst and the Ballets Russes did a similar thing with Rites of Spring. Alongside this was the fervid art emerging Post 1917 Russia and some Easter European states.

With the rise of American Expressionism and the infiltration of Freud into the written form this move from Fine Art being the preserve of the elite was complete.


After a career of some 50 years as engineer I enter the Fine Arts realm with fully formed ideas and preoccupations. What I lack are the skills and techniques to express these. The present therefore is an exploration among the various art forms to find those that best express these.

One of these forms is the political. Few artists have succeed in incorporation the polemic into the visual form such that the product an be rightly viewed as Fine Art. William Kentridge is the sole artist I am aware of who successfully manages this feat.

With Picasso’s Guernica is the sole painting that achieves successfully political expression as a form of Fine Art. Should Picasso have created no other work this work would have ensured lasting fame.

With Guernica Picasso’s depiction of the suffering of the inhabitants of a single town he has created a work which stands for all time and acts as a universal to speak so eloquently of the sufferings and loss brought about by the ruthlessness of war, whatever the cause. Few can seek to emulate him for the achievement of such a work is so difficult: to transform the particular into the universal. Future generations need not know of the background to the painting. It is not necessary. The work speaks for itself.

Malcolm D B Munro
Sunday 28 May, 2017



Filed under: Culture

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