When the performer is gone the art exists only in the memory of those who have seen it and dies with them. Looking at photographs, reading descriptions, or trying to recall it too often can only kill it in the memory of an individual. But it is never truly lost, you say, because in all arts all improvements and discoveries that are logical are carried on by some one else; so nothing is lost, really, except the man himself. Yes, and it would be very comforting to know that if at his death all the painter's canvases disappeared with him. that Cezanne's discoveries, for example, were not lost but would be used by all his imitators. Like hell it would.
Suppose a painter's canvases disappeared with him and a writer's books were automatically destroyed at his death and only existed in the memory of those who had read them. The art, the method, the improvements of doing, the discoveries remain; but the individual, whose doing of them made them, who was the touchstone, the original, disappears and until another individual, as great, comes, the things, by being imitated, with the original gone, soon distort, lengthen, shorten, weaken and lose all reference to the original. All art is done only by the individual. The individual is all you ever have and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. The individual, the great artist when he comes, uses everything that has been discovered or known about his art up to that point, being able to accept or reject in a time so short it seems that the knowledge was born with him, rather that he takes instantly what it takes the ordinary man a lifetime to know, and then the great artist goes beyond what has been done or known and makes something of his own. But there is sometimes a long time between great ones and those that have known the former great ones rarely recognize the new ones when they come. They want the old, the way it was that they remember it. But the others, the contemporaries, recognize the new great ones because of their ability to know so quickly, and finally even the ones who remember the old do. They are excused from not recognizing at once because they, in the period of waiting, see so many false ones that they become so cautious that they cannot trust their feelings; only their memory. Memory, of course, is never true.
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