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talent and michaelangelo

updated tue 30 apr 96


John Sproule on fri 26 apr 96

Way back at the beginning of this thread, Carla asked, so if there's no
such thing as talent, how do you explain Michaelangelo?

So, me being me, I went out and found some books on the life of
Michaelangelo. What a life!! His father couldn't figure out what to do
with him, since all he seemed to want to do was draw all day, for which
his father frequently beat him, so he had
him apprenticed. M. ended up living with the Medicis, which is a bit
like living in an art museum with the private collector who funded it. M
was surrounded every day by artists, other apprentices and the most
powerful family in Italy who loved art and collected it with a passion.
M became the favourite. He was proud, worked like a demon, kept long
hours and socialized very little. He used the ideas of his predecessors,
but improved on them, using his own techniques and rejecting the
conventions of his peers. He never took no for an answer and when he was
asked to paint the Sistine Chapel, he had never worked in colour on a
fresco before! Much of what he did he was forced to do, ordered and
threatened and forced by popes and Medicis, cajoled and payed off,
because he had a
reputation. He was so reluctant to take over the design and building of
St. Peter's that he tried to convince the workers to get him fired from
the job! He was independent, stubborn, frequently insulted and belittled
his contemporaries because he knew he could do it better, whatever it
was. He was loyal and committed to his work, certain of his own
skills. But he also had patrons, was paid handsomely and was surrounded
by artists and people who loved art. He worked at art, and that's all.
He never married, never had children, never had to hold down a "day
job", never sat up all night typing on Clayart.

I don't really know what the point of all of this is. For me it went
beyond the argument about talent, and whether artists are "special". It
seems Michaelangelo was literally born to be what he became, and that his
personal strength was what pushed him further and higher.

Okay, time to get to work!