Sometimes art inspires art. Keats was famous for often writing about paintings and sculptures. Coleridge and Wordsworth used to write the same poems, most likely off of one another – there are two ancient mariners and I’ve read them both (and my preference was for the Coleridge version).
Often times the poem inspired by art is in itself divine, so inspired was the poet by the work. I still stand by Keats’s Ode to a Grecian Urn as a work of art on its own.
We all work from the inspiration of those who came before us, even those who are rampant individualists. In fact, I believe every artist stands on the shoulders of giants (that’s how I’ve heard great scientists described, it’s also true for art). Those who claim to work totally from their unique point of view are either lying or deluded (or both). This isn’t something new and post-modern inspired by the Global Economy or the Social Media or even the tubes of the internet, this is a dance as old as human kind. We’ve always looked to others for inspiration, for hints, for an audience to impress. In ancient times, people would tell the same stories over and over about the heroes of their culture, but the stories turned into contests to see who could tell the classic tale in the most interesting manner (or the most skilled and elegant manner). The translations we have today are only one version of many.
I still believe that every artist has his or her own unique perspective on the world and no one will ever be able to replicate that, it’s still something that was informed by his or her family, schooling, country and, yes, artistic exposure. Whether that exposure was in museums hanging on walls or on the streets spray painted on walls, it was there (after all art is everywhere).
So, why not take a pad of paper and a good pen, take a trip to your museum or to your favorite graffiti wall and see what comes out – be inspired!
by William Carlos Williams
In Breughel’s great picture, The Kermess,
the dancers go round, they go round and
around, the squeal and the blare and the
tweedle of bagpipes, a bugle and fiddles
tipping their bellies (round as the thick-
sided glasses whose wash they impound)
their hips and their bellies off balance
to turn them. Kicking and rolling about
the Fair Grounds, swinging their butts, those
shanks must be sound to bear up under such
rollicking measures, prance as they dance
in Breughel’s great picture, The Kermess.