(Drama for Students)

Marc, an aeronautical engineer, emerges as the character in Art with the greatest internal conflict. His words both begin and end the play, thus demonstrating the transformation he has experienced as a result of the events that take place over the course of the play. He opens Art with the statement that his friend Serge has bought a painting, which Marc describes as ‘‘a white painting with white lines,’’ and expresses that the painting has left him with a feeling of unease.

Marc prefers traditional art and is disdainful of modern art. When he visits Serge at his apartment and is shown the new painting, he laughs, says it is worthless, and criticizes Serge for spending so much money on it. Alone, later, Marc chides himself for being so harsh in his criticism of Serge and vows to be nicer from now on.

One night while Marc and Serge wait at Serge’s apartment for their friend Yvan to arrive so they can all go out, they continue to argue about the painting. When Yvan arrives, the conflict over the painting escalates. After Serge tells Marc that his girlfriend, Paula, is an obnoxious person, Marc physically attacks him but does not hurt him.

Marc finally admits that he feels abandoned and betrayed by Serge’s buying of the painting because he feels the painting has replaced him in Serge’s affections. Marc goes on to relate that Serge used to look up to him and see him as a role model. He explains that Serge’s buying of the painting was an act of independence by which he demonstrated that he is no longer under Marc’s influence. Marc recalls how much he loved feeling idolized by Serge and how much he resents Serge’s newfound independence from him.

In order to show that he cares more about Marc than he does about his new painting, Serge invites him to draw on the white painting with a blue pen. Marc sketches a slope with a man skiing down it. Later, over dinner, the men agree to patch up their friendship on a trial basis. They work together to wash all the blue ink off the white painting. In the closing lines of the play, Marc recites a short poem about his friend’s painting, demonstrating that he has come to accept Serge’s act of independence and that he has discovered what the painting means to him personally.

Serge, a divorced dermatologist, has just purchased a modern, abstract, minimalist painting by an artist named Antrios for 200,000 francs. Upon seeing the new painting, his longtime friend Marc laughs at him and criticizes him for spending so much money on it. Serge has been interested in modern art for some time and points out that Marc has no knowledge of modern art and so has no standards by which to judge the Antrios painting. When Yvan visits Serge, they discuss the Antrios painting. They both share a laugh over the absurdly high price he paid for it. Serge tells Yvan that he did not like Marc’s smugness, tactlessness, insensitivity, and condescension in his...

(The entire section is 1224 words.)