The Unknown Masterworks
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The greatest artists that this world has ever seen are unknown. They did not live in Paris in 1870, nor in Italy in 1400; they lived in Greece many centuries before Christ. And it is not only their names we do not know, it is also their works.
We are familiar with their love and mastery of the human body from sculptural masterworks such as Phydias' pediment and frieze for the Parthenon, but who carved the winged Victory?
We honour the ancient Greeks as great sculptors and we admire their pottery, but did they paint ? We have no concrete evidence, we only know that they did, and how good they were, from eyewitness accounts.
Greek sculpture has only once, in Michelangelo, or twice, in Rodin, been approached, but after so many centuries, no drawing and no painting could survive.
Growing up, I always had a deep sense of frustration when I looked at books on Greek art. I loved the sculpture, but where are the drawings, where are the paintings? Because drawing to the artist is more important than painting. The severely stylised greek vases are disappointing to a young boy who knows, just knows, that for every great sculpture in the Parthenon, there are 10 to 50 drawings.
Every single sculpture at this level of sensuality, must be underpinned by the most passionately tactile drawing, and the greater the sculpture, the greater, both in intensity and in quality, the studies are.
But now it is not so much the drawings that I long to see, as the paintings.
Maturity has brought a deeper appreciation of the symphonic qualities of colour, atmosphere, and mood which only painting can convey. In the eternal struggle between Venetian and Florentine, painterly and linear, romantic romantic classical art, where did they come down, these greatest of all painters, whose work shall remain forever unseen?
Still we know them, these unknown masterworks. Somewhere in our race memory, somewhere in collective subconscious, we glimpse their works.
And we cherish them.


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