Proust: the work of art is the mistress of the artist.

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Proust: the work of art is the mistress of the artist.

Proust teaches us:

People often say that, by pointing out to a man the faults of his mistress, you succeed only in strengthening his attachment to her, because he does not believe you; yet how much more so if he does!

À la recherche du temps perdu. (In Search of Lost Time.) Vol. I. Du côté de chez Swann. (Swann’s Way.) § “Swann in Love.”

But is this not even truer for artists? The work of art is the mistress of the artist. All his time and energy are spent with and on his mistress. But problems crop up. The artist starts to fall in love with the flaws in the work of art. The work of art can then never become a masterpiece. Hence, the artist in love with the flaws in his own work is a failed artist. For as Proust puts it:

“The danger of that kind of love, however, is that the woman’s subjection calms the man’s jealousy for a time but also makes it more exacting. After a little he will force his mistress to live like one of those prisoners whose cells they keep lighted day and night, to prevent their escaping. And that generally ends in trouble.”

À la recherche du temps perdu. (In Search of Lost Time.) Vol. II. À l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs. (Within a Budding Grove / In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.) 1919. “Madame Swann at Home.”

 


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