“No Explanation, Nor Apology”

Anyone can learn to paint and to analyze physical truths as facts, but few have the power of self-analysis.  The artist must first be a dreamer, and then a sane analyzer of those dreams.  Again, “There can be no expression without previous impression.”

Learn to discern the exact boundary between synthetic re-creation, suggestion, and mere caricature.  In caricature lies the weakness of our so-called “modern” ideas of art.  The best “modern” painters do not stoop to caricature.  A form may be so modulated, so reshaped, so transmuted, that it fits perfectly into our ideas of certain requisites in a picture, but on more step past this line of good sense brings us to the abyss of caricature, and all is again weak and puerile; for the shapes have become extraordinary, and call our attention to their bizarreness.

Caricature is not really art; it is a travesty on art, and is very easily arrived at.  Art possesses the poignance of caricature, with the reserve of profundity.  A great work of art is complete.  It is not the result of concentration on any one department.  It does not “go” for color, or for organization or for movement, or for symbols requiring a code.  It has the best of all these things in it–hidden away, if you will.  It needs not explanation, no apology.

– John F. Carlson, from Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting, circa 1929.

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