The external part of Rilke’s “double world” finds its expression in his Letters on Cezanne according to a rule of artistic communication laid down by Rilke in his letter of June 24. Here he argues that the artist must not share with others the inner work of which the work of art is a “definitive utterance.”Nevertheless there are two liberties of communication, and these seem to me to be the utmost possible ones: the one that occurs face to face with the accomplished thing, and the one that takes place within actual daily life, in showing one another what one has become through one’s work and thereby supporting and helping and (in the humble sense of the word) admiring one another. But in either case one must show results.
This rule is formulated in reference to what an artist may say of himself and of his works, and Rilke uses it to discuss and evaluate both van Gogh and Cezanne.
Of van Gogh, for example, Rilke notes that in the artist’s letters “he’s usually talking of finished work” and points to van Gogh’s uneasy relationships in Arles with Paul Gauguin as proof of the rule. On the other hand, he writes, “That van Gogh’s letters are so readable, that they are so rich, basically argues against him [as a painter]. . . .” Cezanne he holds up as an example of the painter who avoids “intentionality and arbitrariness” by living Rilke’s rule:Ideally, a painter (and, generally, an artist) should not become...
(The entire section is 1978 words.)
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