11 January 2006


I used to admire a famous Indian classical singer, one of the top most, used to eagerly wait for him to come to the city, never met him or took his pictures, just sat and enjoyed his concerts. A few years ago through a friend, I came to know of the atrocities he committed on his wife. Since then I started hating him and gave away his CD's I had, and never attended his concerts after that.

Right from my school days I used to enjoy reading Byron, he had many issues which never bothered me, I don't want to go into them, I continued admiring him. I happened to read about his daughter Ada whom he abandoned as a week old baby, and never saw her again till the day he died. That really made me hate him.

I had never heard of a computer and never knew that there is something called a computer language. Byron's daughter who later became Lady Lovelace was a gifted mathematician, extremely intelligent, wrote the first ever language for a computer, which was then called an analytical engine, in 1834, she was just 17 at that time. Perhaps in the 50's or 60's one of the first modern computer languages was named after her, simply called 'ADA' She died very young, same age as her father, 36. Charles Dickens and Michael Faraday were among her friends. Thanks to you Ada that I am posting this on my blog.

I have no problems enjoying Oscar Wilde or Elton John. Oscar wilde was a big big mess. So was Vincent VanGogh, he was no saint, he did his best to be one, he studied to be a priest for a while. Good that he failed, we would have missed a great artist. His life is one big reason for the price tag of his work.

I find it impossible to shut myself from the private life of an artist. Knowing some thing more about the artist you admire, lands you in trouble. It happened to me with John Lennon. I am just scared of reading about John Steinbeck, who taught me more about human mind than Sigmund Freud ever did. I have avoided reading Steinbeck's life.

Kowning more about the person who has influenced my life has always depressed me.

Does the life of an artist interfere with your appreciation of his or her art music or literature ?

Is knowing more about the person you admire most, a good idea ?
Blunt knife


Rohan Shivkumar said...

a difficult question.. i guess the knowledge one has about the person always helps one appreicate the work a little more - for it is after all not only the work itself- contextless that can exist- it exists with all our other knwledge as well. however, sometimes i feel that it keeps us from engaging with the work of art. on the other hand, what can i say about someone like madonna- whose entire life/persona itself is an art form?

wildpic said...

what a fab post rauf, very interesting question. simple answers are'nt worth it.

"Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd."

- Edith Sitwell

The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.

- John Stuart Mill

"Every man of genius sees the world at a different angle from his fellows, and there is his tragedy."

- Henry Havelock Ellis

Einstein reportedly sawed the rudder off his sailboat while at sea.

will continue ...

Chinna said...

what was affected by finding out about the person was your love for that person. nothing else. you expressed it by throwing out their work. which is another matter altogether.

Rauf said...

Yes Rohan, I understood and appreciated Michelangelo's work more after reading 'agony and ecstacy' It helps, Some times it goes in the opposite direction, which was puzzling me why it happens why can't I shut myself and enjoy their creativity.

Den said...

Hey there Rauf, you've got a great blog here! I'm thinking of bookmarking your site!

I have a digital cameras site. It pretty much covers digital cameras related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

Rauf said...

Suresh you know my actor friend ? he firmly believed that you have to be a complex person to bring out the best in you. I told him it is not necessary. He tried to get into a complex relationship and made a mess of it. finally circustances made him complex without any efforts. Best is yet to come out him

Rauf said...

Chinna it is better not to hold any one in very high esteem, the person remais the same but we get hurt in the end. I cannot say I have learnt a bitter lesson as I keep repeating my blunders.

Rauf said...

Suresh, I told you about the spam, i thought the google guys have done something abut it, and they disappeared for sometime. they are back again

wildpic said...

yep, saw one den selling stuff, but it looks like a human sent.

complex personality doesnt come latter, its always there and cant fake it.

my answer to your main Q is, yes knowing the personality helps us understand their work much better and what we find as the dark side is our intrepretation. it should no way diminish the light of their creation. when one stands up, its not just the head alone goes up, all the other components too ...

Anonymous said...

Poms, you are right. A person's personal life does matter a lot, cuz when you admire someone, they become akin to real-life heroes, someone you look up to. And when they do impermissible things, they kinda drop in their esteem in your eyes. Take, for example, the actors trapezing across the silver screen here. Most girls i know, still scream themselves hoarse when they see their favourite actor, even if the chap has had a string of amorous affairs, or has been cheating on his wife. And when i question them, they say, " oh, what do I have to do with their private life, i love him on-screen ". They simply DON'T care what he does in his private life, as long as he swings around trees with the on-screen lady love, and bashes up the baddies on the big screen.

Salman Khan used to be my favourite actor, until i heard the string of accusations against him. Though i'm going soft on him, and giving him the benefit of the doubt, my liking for him has certainly dropped quite a few notches


Chinna said...

if you found out that the chief architect of the taj mahal was a really bad person, would you turn away from it?

Rauf said...

Chinna, right thumbs of all the workers who built the taj were chopped off, so that they should not build another Taj. Every body knows this fact and still it attracts large crowd every day from all over the world. that is the power of Taj.

Rohan Shivkumar said...

should you have problems listening to elton john or oscar wilde?

Mad Ethel said...

I think that learning about the struggles of those we admire can be a good thing. Maybe the guy who beat his wife had control issues or some feeling of not having control over his life. I'm not justifying what he did. I'm just pointing out that we all have horrible faults. But nine times out of ten, there are reasons those faults came to being. But I will say that I would have at least lost a bit of respect for him after finding out how he treated his wife. But that's not to say I couldn't learn something good from him either.

Sangita said...

Somehow I had this assumption that ppl who r extraordinarily talented always have weird life and r quite eccentric..But yeah other way round is not true.Time and agin I have found enough examples of this..this does not justify what they do but somehow thought that is the way it is..this has not stopped me from following their work but yes made me think theirs is a difficult life to live with..

Anonymous said...

Maybe Sylvia Plath's works explain why she killed herself by sticking her head in an oven.


Anonymous said...

It often happens that philosophers, artists, those of the kind do not have the kinda "normal" lives the ordinary "less" talented mortals have. May be they are so engrossed in their art/thinking that it is not possible to be normal. their thinking and art is their first love. One has to put all that effort to stand out. Other things have to take a back seat. I remember reading about the author of "how to win friends and influence people" finally ended up leading a secluded life(something of that kind- not sure, but there was some negative). So the question is do you admire the artist for what he is or only his art. when you persue a goal feelings, emotions etc etc do not exist. Rauf like the art, admire the artist for his/her talent. Rins

Rauf said...

Rohan, please read Chinna's comment, its the power of the creation which dominates.

When you read Oscar wilde, you wonder, is the language so beautiful ? That is his power which comes to surface and his personal problems get submerged. So is with Elton John, incidentally both are gay, putting them together is not intentional.
I would suggest shutting yourself from the artist's life and enjoy the imagination but I am unable to do that in some cases.

Rauf said...

Ethel, quite true, grasp the good reject bad element.
But when you are reading a book, the life of the writer keeps surfacing, sometimes it helps to understand the work better. Sports persons are a good example. I have not any tennis player as brilliant as John McEnroe, but there were problems. We ignore those problems and watch his brilliance on court. Unfortunately his behaviour dominates his tennis. Others can only dream of playing like him.
OJ Simpson is another example.

Rauf said...

Sangita, in recent times eccentricities have gone commercial. It jacks up the price of their work. Perhaps you are thinking of what I am thinking, a millionair walking barefoot or different colour shoes is an example.

Rauf said...

Rins, you've got a point there thanks for adding that. I completely forgot abt it. they see things differently, a poet came to see me and he started crying on seeing my portraits. I was upset, they were pretty ordinary to me. I don't know what he saw in them. young chap. He brought his poems they were simply ammazing. nobody cried seeing my portraits.

Rauf said...

Puts, you are talking of a different ball game here. These guys want publicity. Believe me negetive publicity makes them more popular. But that hunting episode was pretty sick. and the AK47 was not a stunt. One actor i know was feeding the journalist with his darker side, and the journalist was paid to write about it.

Rauf said...

Infancia, I have heard of the movie with Gweneth Paltrow playing Sylvia, I don't know how her death is shown in the movie, What i remember is she carefully planned her death. Sent the children away
and gassed herself to death.
Her problem was quite different from the others like beating up the wife. Poor thing was in unbearable pain. Though a bit abstract I loved her poetry, Its simply brilliant. A Van Gogh in a rich torrent of words. Their mental problems were almost similar. I have her entire collection. please check how she died and tell me. I may be wrong and I have not seen the movie.

The reason I am comparing Van Gogh
and Sylvia plath is they went through similar kind of pain, both went more and more abstract as the pain took hold of them, Angel please please check and tell me.

Anonymous said...

Yes, vanity and ambition can make one aggressive towards other people including oneself. As for some homosexuals, they can be as dirty as philanderers. I wouldn't trust anyone to sit properly on a toilet seat.

Anonymous said...

About Van Gogh there is another story going around nowadays. Some people say he was suffering from
syphilis, which seems to be prevalent in those days.

Anonymous said...

I don't like Elton John because he doesn't hide his vanity. A proud and vain face seems to me the ugliest face there is to look at. It's disgusting! I pity them for not being able to hide their vanity and ugly faces. I can say the same thing about Robbie Williams and Michael Jackson. It's tragic. Just kidding!

J. Christian said...

John Lennon is an overrated artist who kept promoting his own work. He probably arranged his own assasination to hide his great disappointment with his own
latest music. It was amateuristic.
He never grew up. His taste was puberal.

B. George said...

Let's all grow up. Nobody is perfect!

Rauf said...

More than one anonymous is a problem.

Anonymous(Elton John)
For you Elton John's vanity dominates his work. Yes he has problems, but he doesn't think so.
Others ignore his problems and enjoy his work. I expect him to be a saint, that is my problem. You would ignore the eccentricity of your favourite artist and enjoy his work. In the 60's 'The Who' smashed their equipment after each concert. Their electric guitars the amplifiers drums, were smashed in the most violent manner, absolute meyhem on stage. It became a trend, Please believe me, more than the music, people used go to watch only that.

Rauf said...

Anonymous(Vanity ambition and aggression)

That is the style they choose, just being creative is not enough, They have to let people know who they are and how 'different' they are.

Rauf said...

Anonymous (Van Gogh)

Van Gogh had more than one issue,
He sold only one painting in his life time for 400 francs. He could not support himself, plus his mental problems and the urge to create. He couldn't wait to be cured. some times he painted more than 10 in a day. He could endure the pain but did not want to continue being a burdon on his brother Theo he loved so much and took his own life. I think newly married Theo died six months later.

What ever be the disease Van Gogh had, his work remains and we are discussing about him. That is the power of creation.

Rauf said...

Mr. Christian,

If the history of the century is written in one paragraph, you'll find The Beatles mentioned there.

Rauf said...

I nearly missed your comment.

First I wanted to say the artist goes and the work remains, I realised how wrong I am. The creator is always alive with his creation. Yes knowing about him helps us to understand his work better, unfortunately the additional knowledge is not always pleasant. It keeps bothering us.

Rauf said...

Mr. B. George,
Please don't ask all to grow up.
some of us would like to remain where we are, and some of us would love to go back to our childhood and refuse to grow up. Growing up is a pain.

Shamantra said...

What a good question!
It's funny how we expect our 'heroes' to be perfect. But don't you think perhaps that it is sometimes the hero's flaws that give him/her true character, or genius, or enhances whatever skills or gifts the muses endow?
Sanity is an ideal but there only variations and degrees of insanity amongst humans. It is our flaws, our eccentricities that make us interesting.
Often, the artform, whether spoken, written, visual or in song, is created as a compulsion to express one's joy or grief or desire or madness, or a means of coming to terms with those emotions. For example, I'm not sure Van Gogh really had a huge personal need to sell his works except perhaps to make enough to buy more tubes of paint. Even food was not a priority. It was the need to express his perceptions that was the driving force behind his painting.
There are 6 billion of us sharing breath and mostly just breathing in and breathing out. But there are some who, for a brief moment, create something extraordinary, and very occasionally, the rest of us notice.

Anonymous said...

Get to known more of yourself before u understand others-Arasoo

Rauf said...

Barbara, I see a poet in you. Beautifully presented.
yes its true, but the eccentricities sometimes are so dominating, they disturb our appreciation. They are humans too
having normal human problems, and we demand too much out of them.
some times the work itself would be very disturbing like Doctor Faustus, the character of Mephastophilis is the height of imagination, comes out of the mind of a perfectly normal and healthy Christopher Marlow. or The Mayor of Casterbridge, I expect Thomas Hardy to be a very sad and complicated person. He led a perfectly normal life to my surprise, as an architect(not fully qualified) I wonder how he could bring so much of pain and suffering into his writing unless he experienced them himself. Not until Jude the Obscure when his wife started opposing his writing for obvious reasons, perhaps she too couldn't accept the pain and suffering in his writing.
Thank you so much Barbara for your contribution.

Rauf said...

Welcome Aras ! so good to see you here, I am expecting your blog soon, It will be fun I know, I am waiting.
Yea, We have to understand ourselves first. And understanding ourselves is lot more difficult then uderstanding others.
Aras, do you remember Alice Cooper ? who used to cut fowls on stage and throw blood on the audience ? Sick it was. If that happens now he'd be thrown behind bars for years.
you must be having so much to tell the world Aras, please! lets see your blog

T S Ramesh said...

People live through their ideas long after they are dead.

When you read someone's words, listen to an inspiring speech or music you simply do not stop with that. It is but natural to idealize - idolize.

Our quest for he ideal kindled no doubt by one's own inadequacies drives our craving or role models. A vicarious life so o speak - van Gogh's passion, Robinson Crusoe's struggles, Magellan's adventure, Joan of Arc's pain ... Beethoven's agony ...
By and by, i is just not their work but the person occupies you mind. You idolize, deify and pu them on a pedestal.

And one fine day when you ae too close and oo persoal you start sein warts and all.

The pedestal is vacated. And of course a new occupant is found soon enough. And so on ...

Imposing one's own idealism [or the lack of it] on another life is no fair and bemoaning the lak of perfection unjus.

When you are just a bystander and let life flow by everything seems fine. Soon as someone wants to alter trouble starts.

As it has been told - it takes all kinds and they come in all shapes and sizes.

T S Ramesh

Anonymous said...

She sent everyone away and stuck her head in the oven. i guess that's wat they meant when they said she gassed herself. didnt really check out facts but i feel sure.


Rauf said...

Ramesh, you have given me a subject for next blog.

Sense ceases to prevail when passion takes hold of you, life becomes complicated, and we enjoy the fruits, sometimes sweet sometimes bitter.

haha ! they come in all shapes'n sizes

Rauf said...

What a loss !
she couldn't get over her father's death. She nearly killed herself then, went in to a never ending depression. No evidence of her death in her poetry, but most of them are quite depressing and highly imaginative

Thanks so much Angel.

wildpic said...

out of the blue zen haiku poems for comp users ...

a file that big?
it might be very useful.
but now it is gone.

the web-site you seek
cannot be located,
but Countless more exist.

just a break ... continue rauf ..

Mitey Mite said...

What a fascinating idea! Can a nice normal person create, or does it require suffering? How much of the artist's life should we know? How much of what we get out of the work is subjective? Should it change because we learned something about his life that we dislike? Was his life a part of his work, or a separate thing?

You and I are on a very similar wavelength. You already know that I love Steinbeck. Van Gogh speaks to my soul. I have been to the insane asylum (now government offices) in Arles, and to his grave in Auvers, and I have seen his paintings in NYC, Amsterdam and Paris. I don't know if I see what he meant me to see in his paintings, but does it matter? This is a really interesting question.

Rauf said...

Thank you Mitey Mite, you are so lucky, sorry this is not luck, You
had the urge to go to those places.
that is something wonderful. I have seen only the pictures in books. I spend hours and hours thinking what went thru his mind while while working on a particular painting, actually he worked pretty fast. I was inspired by his power of observation, specially while making the sketches of the coal miners, or the potato eaters.

'Tortilla flat' and 'Of mice and men' had profound impact on me. they crept in to my bones.
Thank you Mitey Mite for stepping in and for your valuable comment.

wildpic said...

okie ... new post arrived, have a look.

Ruth said...

My mentor, a poet, believes that few get to greatness without obstacles to get past. Getting past obstacles can turn people a bit mad.

Eckhart Tolle says we would all do the same things, make the same choices, if we were in another person's shoes, with the same genes, same upbringing, same pains, same environment.

I don't know if that is true, but maybe it is.

I am beginning to study Baron Haussmann before a trip to Paris in a couple of weeks. He was not a great guy, as I'm finding out. And he tore down much of the city to recreate it in his vision. Meanwhile, there was a shantytown on the edge of the city where poor folks lived in squalor. Will this change my view of the beautiful Paris? Oh yes. It deepens and enriches my understanding of that city, helps me see past the beautiful images and know what it cost down through history. Do I love it the same way? Not quite. But with understanding comes complexity, just like in relationship with a spouse. I still love it.

How do I know I would not do the same thing in his shoes, with his level of awareness?

Rauf said...

Ruth, let me apologise first, as I completely missed this comment. I am extremely sorry.

I would be lying if I say money and fame would not change me.

Some people handle it well and some don't.

If we insulate ourselves from ground realities, we would remain happy for ever.

Human mind does not accept such insulation. Along with the others, curiosity also is our primary instinct.

Knowing a bit more about the person we admire, helps to understand his imagination and creativity most of the time, but some times we wish we hadn't gone in to the details. Because they hurt us and cast a shadow on our appreciation of the person's creativity and achievement.
But when the achievement is phenomenally strong like the Taj Mahal, Doctor Faustus or Potato eaters, we tend to overlook the darker side of the achievement.
Thank you so much for your contribution Ruth