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September 11, 1963 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1963-09-11
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Through Boldness'

(Continued from preceding page)
ing can be. It also presents an accessible
illustration of what he believed drawing
should be.
LIKE HIS BELOVED Rubens. Delacroix
employed a free play of lines, lines
whose purpose was not so much to separ-
ate one object from another as to present
the life and effect of the subject. The
artist saw no power in a single line; his
are rough strokes not elegant in them-
selves (as was the pure, ornamental line
of Botticelli, or Gothic line) but which
suggest and which model plastically.
"Straight lines are monsters," Delacroix
exclaimed: they are not found in nature.
I think it is partly because of the multi-
plicity of his curved lines that nothing
of his ever looks rooted or permanent;
even his "seated Arabs" (of which there
is an example, an etching, on display in
our Museum) seem to surge up; drapery
lines swirl even when the robed figure
isn't moving. And although the lines
curve and boldly reach out, they always
have a definite place to go and each
achieves a definite effect.
Delacroix's doctrine was to draw con-
tours after having blocked in masses:
"Grasp things by their centers." He found
that the classic artists had used this pro-
cedure, which was at an opposite pole
from the neo-classicists who instead de-
veloped, like the Renaissance artists,
single accented contour lines (Delacroix:
"The contour, accented uniformly, be-

The Young Negro Novelist's
Highly Personal Message
Transcends Social Criticism


Etudes pour les Massacres de Scio (1824)

yond proportion, destroys placticity.").
No wonder that it was said that "when
Delacroix paints, it is like a lion devour-
ing his prey!" Van Gogh, another pas-
sionate spirit, was to observe Delacroix's
argument of mass versus outline, and
Cezanne above all was to grasp volume
and area through mass, as were other
major painters from the Impressionists
onward. (Delacroix's genius even inspired
Cezanne to leave us with the idea for an
Apotheosis of Delacroix, with the full reti-
nue of adoring painters including Pissaro,
Vonet and Cezanne himself, and a barking
dog representing the envious critics!).
IN THE MUSEUM pen-and-wash draw-
ing, reproduced here, the function of
the heavier, brushed-on line especially
around the main horse's hind-quarters
and hind leg is not so much to articulate
shape (as a contour line) but to empha-
size support and the thrust of movement
out from it. It is easy to see that this
line was freely brushed on after the artist
had grasped the horse by the "middle,"
penning in the short, massy strokes which
articulate the body's volume and bring
that animal into the foreground by direct-
ing our attention to their small detail. The
main object is the most plastic and pre-
cise, while the others not in the center
of interest are flattened accordingly.
The wash, including the accent of heavy
wash line, sets the main horse in an at-
mosphere of light and dark into which
the dimmer horses fade. These back-
ground figures are vital, too, as are all
the elements in any fine drawing. There
is never the repose of a single, continu-
ous contour line describing any horse; a
quick, sure series of strokes serves for
As so often happens with Delacroix, the
artist himself describes the ideal he has
here realized: "A first-class drawing,
which has the charm of being complete
without detail, expresses the idea to a
high degree, not because details are sup-
pressed, but by reason of their total sub-
ordination to the main strokes, which
will prove exceedingly moving." This
drawing's multiple technique adds great-
ly to its impact and to its richness. (On its
reverse side is another fine pen-and-wash
drawing, that of a seated woman in a
landscape. It is interesting to notice how
differently the artist treats a more tran-
quil subject while using most of the same
techniques as in the study of the horses.)
HOW CAN an artist who himself always
emphasized his independence be cate-
gorized? Delacroix himself avoided an en-
framement like Romantic or Classical; he
wrote: "Truth in the arts depends sole-
ly on the person writing, painting, etc ...
it is consequently impossible to hand on
the feeling for beauty an truth or their
expression; to start a new school is no
less than absurd." He studied nature
fervently on his own, always seeking its
dynamic heart because of a loving kinship
with that heart and never with the vain
aspiration of founding an artistic move-
ment. His sketches and drawings, magni-
ficent in themselves and always reflect-
ing his smallest endeavors, must often
have served him as his first delicate con-
tact with that essence for which he tire-
lessly probed.

DON QUIXOTE once said that the times
no longer afforded man opportunity to
be heroic. He mourned that the art of
sacrificing, of giving-for another human
being' or a priceless ideal-was dead. But
he subsequently acknowledged that it had
never lived, really.
James Baldwin has exploded on the
American literary scene with a modern
answer to Quixote: It is only by dar-
ing to realize the human capacity for
self-preoccupation and cruelty which
Cervantes classically exposed that man
may come to a firm establishment of his
own identity. And only when this identity
is ineradicable is it possible to transcend
oneself. Baldwin views this transcendence
as a victory for the human imagination.
Particularly since publication of Anoth-
er Country (1961), Baldwin's distinction
is that he has cracked open the intellec-
tual strait-jackets of notably provincial
American critics.
UNFORTUNATELY, they have been as
baffled with him as they were with
Ernest Hemingway in the '30's. This baf-
flement can be traced to Baldwin's un-
usual attempt to be essayist, novelist, and
poet; he does not, however, feel compelled
to preserve the rigidity of each media.
His novels are in part sheer poetry, his
essays are rich in undeveloped but pre-
cious novel characters. What is clearly
poetry in both his essays and fiction is
heavy with social criticism usually con-
fined to the form of persuasive but flat
Such fluidity in expression is a source
of the greatest present misinterpretation
of Baldwin: that his highest aim is to
depict the American Negro at mid-twen-
tieth century. He deals largely with Ne-
gro problems. But what predicates even
Baldwin essays such as "Nobody Knows
My Name" is the subtle contention that
Negro strife is a mere symbol of larger
forces eating away at the foundations of
American society. What makes Baldwin
such a pure revolutionary is that he is
not solely championing the Negro cause:
he is championing ruthless and erosive
upheaval in the most personal ways.
BALDWIN'S INSIGHT into pragmatic
concerns of the current Negro struggle
is subjective. His attempts at contem-
porary social comment in the essays are
often distorted:
"As far as the color problem is con-
cerned, there is but one great difference
between the Southern white and the
Northerner: the southerner remembers
historically and in his own psyche, a kind
of Eden in which he loved black people
and they loved him . . . None of this is
true for the Northerner. Negroes repre-
sent nothing to him personally, except,
perhaps the dangers of carnality. He nev-
er sees Negroes. Southerners see them all
the time. Northerners never really think
about them whereas Southerners are nev-
er really thinking of anything else."
-Nobody Knows My Name
But despite the stories their ancestors
may relate, how many young southerners
today can remember genuinely loving
Negroes? Although the image of carnality
in place of humanity may be true in the
North, it can hardly be said that south-
erners "are never really thinking of any-
thing else."
Baldwin's essays are studded with such
generalizations as, "A vast amount of the
energy that .goes into what we call the
Negro problem is produced by the white
man's profound desire not to be judged by
those who are not white . . . The real
reason that non-violence is considered to
be a virtue . . . in Negroes . . . is that
white men do not want their lives, their
self-image, or their property threatened
. .. White Americans do not believe in

death, and this is why the darkness of my
skin so intimidates them."
Critics have been countering statements
such as the above three in ways similar to
F. W. Dupree's recent tirade in the
New York Times Review of Books: in
the first statement, Baldwin obviously
exaggerates the white man's conscious-
ness of the Negro. Secondly, it is not a
momentous conclusion that men do not
want their property or lives threatened.
Also, to impute in a pat way "real rea-
sons" for the behavior of entire popula-
tions is incredulous. Finally, one might
consider the linking of black skin with
death good Poe, but what does it have to
do with the white man's real opinion of
YET IT IS PRECISELY Baldwin's lack
of consistently sensible social com-
ment which proves an artistic advantage.
His experience as "Negro" and all the
meanings therein is utterly singular; this
permits him depth of emotional penetra-
tion and an aesthetic triumph of deafen-
ing magnitude:
"And blood, in all the cities through
which he passed, ran down. There
seemed no door, anywhere, behind
which blood did not call out, unceas-
ingly for blood; no woman, whether
singing before defiant trumpets or re-
joicing before the Lord, who had not
seen her father, her brother, her
lover, or her soul cut down without
mercy; who had not seen her sister
become part of the white man's
whorehouse, who had not, all too nar-
rowly, escaped that house herself; no
man, preaching, or cursing, strum-
ming his guitar in the lone, blue
evening, or blowing in fury and ec-
stasy his golden horn at night, who
had not been made to bend his head
and drink white men's muddy water;
no man whose manhood had not been,
at the root, sickened, whose loins had
not been dishonored, whose seed had
not been scattered into oblivion and
worse than oblivion, into living
shame and rage, and into endless
battle. Yes, their parts were all cut
off, they were dishonored, their very
names were nothing more than dust
blown disdainfully across the field of
time-to fall where, to blossom where,
bringing forth what fruit hereafter,
where?-their very names were not
their own. Behind them was the
darkness, nothing but the darkness,
and all around them destruction, and
before them nothing but the fire-a
bastard people, far from God, singing
and crying in the wilderness!"
--Go Tell It On the Mountain
This excerpt from Go Tell It On the
Mountain illustrates Baldwin's reverence
for one man's personal experience. He re-
lates this experience, however, in a way
which bears relevance to our society. He is
predisposed to the belief that what each
man knows and feels does make a differ-
ence in an important larger context; thus
the key to revealing history and the fu-
ture's secrets lies in the conscious and
subconscious lives of particular people.
IN DELVING passionately into the mo-
tives of real human beings, Baldwin
ascribes a responsibility to, and a respect
for the individual which is unusual among
American fiction writers today.
He Writes in Notes of a Native Son:
"Human freedom is a complex, difficult-
and private-thing. If we can liken life,
for a moment, to a furnace, then freedom
is the fire which burns away illusion ...
the recovery of this standard demands of
everyone who loves this country a hard
look at himself, for the greatest achieve-
ment must begin somewhere, and they
always begin with the person."
(Continued on following page)

The dynamic 'Arab Rider Galloping'

"That man who attached fundamental importance
to color and its reflections - doesn't he merit,
before Claude Monet the name, father of Im-
pressionism? . . . Most of the researches of the
Impressionists find in him a precursor. Delacroix
said: 'The enemy of all painting is gray.' Let us
note however an essential difference in this move-
ment. While the art of Delacroix was always the
expression of his thought, that of the Impression-
ists contents itself with registering a purely visual
--Maurice Serullaz
Curator au Louvre

The artist's self-portrait

4 E

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