from one of my sketchbooks, drawn at the Ridges, Door Co., Wisconsin
I was going over some of my sketchbooks this morning, and I found a few notes from a book entitled The Art of Travel, by Alain De Botton. The volume belonged to an instructor at a workshop, so I read it very fast and copied out some ideas that struck me. The book doesn't give instructions about how to travel, but rather discusses the effects of travel on people in general, and some writers and visual artists in particular. The gist is that people seek beauty, "the sublime" in places like the Lake District, or Provence. It struck me that I'd like to find The Art of Travel, and reread it.
p. 183 And perhaps the most effective means of enriching our sense of what to look for in a scene is by studying visual art. We could conceive of many works of art as being immensely subtle instruments for telling us what amounts...to Look at the sky of Provence, redraw your notion of wheat, do justice to olive trees.
p.188 Every realistic picture represents a choice as to which features of reality should be given prominence; no painting ever captures the whole, as Nietzsche mockingly pointed out...in The Realistic Painter: Completely true to nature, what a lie. How could nature ever be constrained into a picture? The smallest bit of nature is infinite. And so he paints what he likes about it. And what does he like? He likes what he can paint!
p.205 It struck me as awkwardly true that I had not much admired Provence before I began to study its depiction in Van Gogh's work. But in its desire to mock art lovers, Pascal's maxim (How vain painting is, exciting admiration by its resemblance to things of which we do not admire the originals) was in danger of skirting two important points. Admiring a painting that depicts a place we know but do not like seems absurd and pretentious if we imagine that painters do nothing but reproduce exactly what lies before them...But as Nietzsche knew, painters do not merely reproduce, they select and highlight, and they are accorded genuine admiration insofar asa their version of reality seems to brings out valuable features of it.