I was having an online discussion about artists trying to make a difference with their work. Some people believe that art should be used to create change. While I agree that is a noble endeavor I don’t think intent plays a role in the influence of art on a viewer.
In my experience a viewer responds to the abilities of the artist, not knowing anything about the artistic intent behind the image. As a matter of fact, most art that carries a message comes up short for most viewers unless of course that work is handled with expertise. The proper handling conveys the experience, not the artist’s beliefs.
Artists are notorious for their human failings. The fact that Caravaggio used his favorite prostitute for a commissioned painting of the Virgin Mary doesn’t keep religious followers from weeping at the powerful depiction. His religious beliefs or lack thereof did not affect the viewer’s enjoyment. This same scenario is played out over and over again throughout art history. The impressionists known for their paintings of bucolic scenes and idle bourgeois life did so at the height of the Franco-Prussian war. Paris was under siege and fell to opposing forces. The war took the life of Frederic Bazille one of the founders of the Impressionist movement.
Art is uncompromisingly democratic in this respect, the work once finished stands on its own merits and is judged by its artistic qualities, not its creator’s personality. While honesty and fidelity to craft are important for the creation of any work of art, the artist’s intent, beyond its successful execution, is not a real consideration.
The public’s response to the work carries the final decision of its success and that can change over the life of the piece as social changes in taste affect the thoughts of the viewers.An artist is better served by learning all about their craft in the creation of work that instills a lasting impression on the audience.
A high degree of expertise in technique has always had, and always will have, a predominate place in art. The subject, in itself, has value only according to the mode of the day. Tomorrow it will be superseded by a new fashion or fad. With the passing of time, the subject loses much of its meaning. But the fine execution of that subject retains its value. ~ Nicholai Fechin