10 Jun 2021

Poem The Painter critical appreciation


The Painter

By Ashbery

Critical Appreciation

This poem is a masterpiece in literature. In 'The Painter' ,Ashbery touches upon some of the basic concepts in imitative art. His aim is not to attempt a poetic compromise with the warring schools of criticism. Rather he presents a situation in which the artistic creativity may come in direct contrast with the demands of modem society. The poem presents the ambition of an artist who wants to paint the sea. His desire is to present the sea on the canvas rather than to paint it. He says that "Nature, not art, might usurp the canvas" Ashbery draws a conclusion that such an attempt would result in a total denial of modem urban values. Ashbery builds a relation between the sea and the buildings in the very opening lines of the poem. The painter sits between the symbols of nature and the jungle of cement and steel. He was enjoying his work and expected that his subject would easily yield to creative reproduction, but his expectations resulted in failure. Reality denied to be captured so easily by art. Ashbery compares his desire to children's view of prayer showing the simplicity of his desire. Ashbery contrasts the artist's expectation to realistic theory of art claiming that even the mass naturalistic presentation of life is still not nature as it exists in a different medium which changes its attributes. The artist with this desire is unable to present reality and so "There was never any paint on the canvass" Ashbery contrasts the artist with the people in the buildings. He focuses the basic difference between their modes of thinking. They want to “put him to work” wishing him to paint something less "angry and large", something "more subject to a painter", mood'. It is vivid that they think art to be an imitative skill in the service of urban, commercial interests. It is “more subject to.....a prayer” or as one may say 'an order'. The concept of presentation of reality in the sense that reality may actually "usurp" the canvas is strange to them. The artist's choosing his wife for a subject and making her "vast" is Ashbury’s way of defining disillusionment. Ashbery being a jolly poet could hardly have expressed matrimonial love in any other way. Anyhow this time it was as if the portrait "Had expressed itself without a brush". With this inspiration the artist now arises to paint with seawater, letting the medium of reality to be the medium of artistic expression. This was as if the artistic creation would "wreck the canvas", putting an end to the illusion of projection and letting the reality to be expressed without any alien medium of expression. This new mode of creativity in which the artist is overpowered by his subject is disrespectful to the people in the buildings who consider it to be the case of "a painter crucified by his subject". Others declare it the egotistic expression of the artist's self and not presentation of reality. Immaculate reality untouched with art is the final expression and provokes a destructive harsh response form the people of the buildings. The portrait is thrown into the sea where it becomes one with its subject and thus the expression of the subject remains a prayer. The poem projects many contrasting views related to art and its relation to reality and society. The creative artist stands between the sea and the buildings, i.e., between nature and the urban civilization. The buildings are tall and crowded. The tallness of the buildings also reflects the way the people hate the artist. But the artist sits with his back to the buildings. His freedom of thoughts is met with advice from the buildings. People warn to "put hint to work". Ashbery with his usual fanciful way of presentation makes the artist paint his wife whom he makes "Vast, like ruined buildings" He very cleverly hides whether the portrait of the spouse was made in paint on the canvas or if it was a real-life portrait. The poem makes use of figurative language throughout that making every simple detail stand for a more complicated thought related with theory of art. As if forgetting itself the portrait, had confessed itself without a brush, wrecks the canvas, crucified by his subject, all indications of a subject began to fade, to howl, that was also a prayer, the sea swallowed the canvas and the brush", all have figurative meanings expressing or reflecting significant artistic concepts. Ashbery uses the word prayer several times. In this poem every time meaning something different. The artist's prayer and the people's hoot which was also a prayer have contrasted meanings and so Ashbery uses the same word to mean different things to show how reality can be seen from many different perspectives. Conclusively, Ashbery's desire of painting led him to write this poem. The painter is fully representative of Ashbery's poetry. Ashbery used a persona to show his poetic incite. The poet uses cinemascope images in the poem to make it as dynamic and visual as possible. The Painter's desire of immaculate and futuristic art remains only a prayer and longing. He is not able to get the extraordinary because of the ordinary demands of the audience. The main theme of the poem is that innovator, modem and creative artists am crucified by the traditional and conventional people.

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