KEATS WAS RIGHT
Oil on canvas 15 x 24 $600
Ode on a Grecian Urn was written by Romantic English poet, John Keats in 1819, and it was published a year later in the Annals of Fine Art, an art magazine. Keats had written several other “odes” and this one was his ruminations on a Greek Urn that he had read about. He also saw an engraving of a drawing of a Grecian Urn that he had traced. At that time the Elgin Marbles had wide exposure to the British public, and it is clear that Keats had seen them.
Critics and English majors have studied this poem and drawn all sorts of conclusions about its meaning and torn it apart word by word. After all the commotion and endless words about this poem it is about art and its impact on human beings.
The enigmatic last lines, “Beauty is Truth, truth beauty – that is all/ Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” have resonated to us since Keats wrote it. Critics have fallen all over themselves to take down the poem as nonsense and even the esteemed poet T.S. Eliot said that these last lines are a “serious blemish on a beautiful poem, and the reason must be either that I fail to understand it, or that it is a statement which is untrue” And on and on he went. Complete information on this poem is available to anyone interested online, and especially on Wikipedia.
This is about visual art, which is quite apart from the art of poetry or writing. Perhaps Keats was a painter at heart. I know what he means on a visceral level, but I’d have a hard time explaining it in words. Truth and beauty, and beauty and truth, seem to me to be totally intertwined as a psychological and philosophic component of all visual art, over the eons from those animals on the cave walls to the present day. And it is somewhat of a thrill to wander in any of the great museums to see those incredible images.
This painting was done for a show at Carrollwood Cultural Center called “Illuminations” featuring image and words. I don’t know how Keats came into the brain but once it did I was obsessed with getting a Grecian Urn for my painting. Luckily I live near the Greek Community of Tarpon Springs that has many gift shops and I suspected I’d might find my Urn there. The first one was not big enough but the second one was fine. I guess my English degree took over my mind on this one!