The Line Does Not Exist

LINE does not exist in nature. Line is an invention of man: so, in fact, is all drawing. Line, drawing and writing are interrelated. The signature and the other descriptive material that often accompany the drawings of the old masters have no independent existence as writing, apart from the drawing itself: They form part of the whole conception. This idea is well illustrated in certain drawings of the old masters like Durer, Altdorfer and Mantegna. It is illustrated even more strikingly in Oriental drawing, where line and writing blend to form an indissoluble whole.

George Grosz

There must have been a reason for the invention of line. Yes, it is a guide for those who would venture into the formlessness that surrounds us on every side; a guide that leads us to the recognition of form and dimension and inner meaning. It is like the thread Ariadne gave Theseus before he ventured into the mysterious recesses of the labyrinth. Line guides ud when we would enter the Labyrinth of the countless millions of natural objects that surround us. Without the line we would soon be lost; never would we be able to find our way out of the maze. Let us then follow line withersoever it may go. It may lead to something quite definitive and precise-a landscape, or a human face or figure. Or it may lead to the subconscious- the land of fantasy, where fancy roams where it will.

Fantasy may be uninhibited fancy, which has no contact with the world of reality. But it may also lurk beneath a simple object in nature, like a tree or a rock or a sand dune. In fact, it is almost everywhere if you can penetrate deeply enough beneath the husk of things. For, after all, nature is not simply the sum total of animate and inanimate objects. There is more to a tree or a rock or a sand dune than the mere outer appearance of reality. After many a prayer the angel might appear and pehaps the everlasting mystical truth hidden beyond our catalogue minded general conception of nature. As the great Durer once said:” Art is embedded in nature; he who can pluck it possesses it.”

The last century laid a great deal of emphasis on the outer world of reality but neglected the inner world. And so it is that today, when the search for inner truth again possesses the soul of man, we feel spiritually more akin to the painters of the Middle Ages than to the realistic draftsmen who lived in the days of our grandfathers. A drawing by Pisanello or Grunewald is not a mere blueprint; it may be either sketchy or complete, but it will always be a spiritual organism.

George Grosz

Now line, as I have pointed out, is an invention-a product of the brain and soul of man. Is is perfectly logical and natural then that to the lines that we find in nature we should add other lines that are the product of our inner vision. Such drawing can present both the outer husk and the inner essence. It is infinitely superior to to the machine that we call the camera. You cannot take a camera with you in your dream world. No camera has ever been invented-or will be invented that can give a flawless mechanical record of your day dreams or your inner visions.

From my early childhood days i liked to draw. Where did I draw ? What media did I use ? It matters little that I made my first drawings with white chalk on a blackboard and that later I did charcoal sketches after plaster casts at the Academy. The entire artistic life of a painter is a story of steady growth- of constant curiosity, observation and research. In the story of growth everything is significant, even the first faltering steps of artistic childhood. An artist’s mature work often displays a certain adult naiveté.

The German painter Hans von Marees once said; “Drawings are only for the artist himself and, ultimately, for those to whom he has permitted the secret of his inner development to be revealed.”For the general public a drawing without a story is uninteresting. This viewpoint ignores the underlying reality of a pure drawing- its function as an indicator of growth. In this book* I present for the first time to the public certain drawings of mine as a record of an artistic development. These drawings are rather abstract in comparison with my earlier work, which was political and satirical, They are in different media. In part they present preliminary sketches for paintings, These display the result of study and research; they also display drawing for its own sake-drawing for the sheer pleasure of working with planes, lines, dots and hooks to represent textures, or blacks and whites to conjure up sfumati and chiaroscuri. You will note that, generally speaking, though I give free rein to my fancy, I have not neglected the outer shell of things. The utter rejection of reality is a perilous matter.Totally abstract fancy has a tendency to become stylized and conventional. Look for example at the drawings of Aubrey Beardsley, who had such a tremendous vogue around 1900, and you will see what I mean. Abstract fancy that becomes pure convention is as much to be shunned by the artist as the slavish copying of nature.

The searcher after fantesy should not avoid reality; he should know how to present the outer appearance of things together with their inner content. The early Italian painters possessed this faculty to an exceptional degree. They created an inner world, yet left the exterior shell of reality intact. I have always sought as models the various forms that nature takes; yet never did I approach the task with such zest and self-confidence as in America. I remember particularly the wonderful days I spent at Cape Cod in 1939. Great cities had always fascinated me. I had felt the spell of huge towers with their myriads of human ants and termites, each engrossed in a tiny world of his own. I had felt the hidden joys and terrors and fears of urban life. I had been powerfully stirred by the great human drama which is a composite of these joys and sorrows. Yet Cape Cod offered me all this and more too. Here too were menace and sweetness and drama-the menace of hovering storm clouds and breaking weaves, the sweetness of gras and sand and trees, the drama of ants, real ants, following the threads of their destiny amid the fantastically shaped dunes and the tall grasses. In a Franciscan mood, I hobnobbed with trees and grasses and flowers. I made nature my friend and confident in that wonderful year. I sat for hours on the dunes and observed and drew.I was filled with an inner calm and joy. My drawings reflected my mood; all my artistic production of that year was good. I was happy once more.

In the drawings I offer you in this book you will see the record of an artist’s growth. In former days, when I essayed political and social satire, I often felt its limitations. In portraying and satyrizing the events of the day, the comedies and tragedies of the passing scene, the artist is like a fiddler strapping on too small a violin. There is only a small place in great art for the quips and innuendo of the satirist. In all humility I offer you the evidence that I have outgrown the satirical phase of my artistic development…

From *George Grosz Drawings, H.Bittner and Company, 1944