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The Quintessential Artist Essay

1023 words - 4 pages

Solitude feeds both the genius and the estranged. It frees one from convention thus allowing for deep thought and reflection, which inevitably leads to great discover. Yet there is a delicate balance that one must take carful pains to follow. For without constraints (as defined by society) there are no rules (or laws) to structure and contain the wild nature of the human mind. Chaos ensues; madness seeps in, and the soul is engulfed. Uncontained raw passion is dangerous, insatiable and destructive. Time must not allow it to fester alone and change into uncontrollable urges; it must be shaped and molded to produce mastery for if not, one becomes consumed by sheer emotion and they succumb to the abyss.
Artists (either consciously or subconsciously) acknowledge the abyss and carefully curb passion and bend it to their will in order to produce. Art is representation of human nature. It tries to capture the very essence of humanity behind ink, paper, paint or plaster. But it is a risk; art plunges the observer into the producer’s mind exposing all of the creator’s flaws, and all of his unholy urges. Sometimes these urges are so heinous and distorted that it forces the producer to retreat from society and immerse himself entirely in his work, for art is the only way he knows how to contain his wicked. In turn society makes an unspoken agreement with the creator; they look at what the piece says about them, rather than what is reflects about the creator himself. Thus they turn a blind eye (again either consciously or subconsciously) and no one directly claims that the creator is an abomination and the artist is free to his own morality.
In Thomas Mann’s novella Death In Venice, Mann grapples with the concept of discipline and passion and how they struggle to maintain the dignity of the artist. He accomplishes this by showing the processes that his protagonist Gustav von Achenbach must experience in order to produce his literary works. Achenbach is initially an emotionally contained and disciplined mature man who has mastered his craft; “he starts his day at an early hour by dousing his chest and back with cold water…then, he spends two or three fervently conscientious morning hours sacrificing… the powers he has assembled during his sleep” . Yet by the end of the book Achenbach is transformed into a routineless sporadic and emotionally overwhelmed man. Unable to resist Tadzio’s beauty he gives in to his urges and consummates it in his writing. He writes one last piece out of his compulsion. The crucial catalyst for this transformation is passion. Initially Achenbach imprisons passion with discipline and forces it to work for him. Yet by then end of the novella it is passion that imprisons Achenbach. His urges control, constrict and torment him until they finally destroy him. Mann categorizes Achenbach’s metamorphosis as one who has fallen into the abyss. “The dignity of the “Hero and Poet” is completely destroyed” and Achenbach dies without the...

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