Yeats on the artist standing alone

“[It is no little thing] to achieve anything in any art, to stand alone perhaps for many years, to go a path no other man has gone, to accept one’s own thought when the thought of others has the authority of the world behind it,…to give one’s life as well as one’s words which are so much nearer to one’s soul to the criticism of the world.”

W.B. Yeats


5 thoughts on “Yeats on the artist standing alone

  1. I find what Yeats said weaves into what I am trying to do with my photography. At a landscape photography workshop I attended last year with Rodney Lough Jr., he said that when you go out to take photographs, you can’t go out with the intention of getting only the “wow” shots because if you do, you will many times be disappointed. The important thing is that you enjoy the time you spend out in the wilderness. If we get a great shot that’s wonderful, if we do not, that’s wonderful as well.

  2. Yeats statement here is one that needs to be thought through for some time. I think the depths of it and the risk he is telling us is far greater than is first imagined as one reads it. Jesus said “Fear not” 365 times. That is one for every day of the year and yet an artist can be stifled by fear every day of the year. Standing alone is scary and it would be a true privilege after standing alone to find that your work made a difference. Sadly, that sometimes does not happen in the artists lifetime.

    Also in comment to Richard. I agree and time in the “wilderness”is never wasted.

  3. Rich, Sherry,

    It’s interesting to me that I wouldn’t have thought of either of those angles on his quotation. What struck me in the quotation was “to give one’s life as well as one’s words which are so much nearer to one’s soul to the criticism of the world” — it seemed a straightforward description of the price an artist pays in attempting to express himself. It is one thing to say something to oneself, or among friends; another thing entirely to say it among strangers, and another thing beyond that to expose it to the criticism of one and all. Regardless whether they have any ability to understand what you are saying or — more subtly — why you are saying it, what you mean to achieve with it, they can jump on it, and who likes being attacked or having his words attacked? But, if one is going to attempt to interact with the world, this is part of the price, as Yeats well understood.

  4. Frank, as you and I have joked we have to be willing to make a fool of ourselves – at least in the eyes of the critics. It isn’t all that easy many times. I send out photographs to friends and get ooohhhh’s and aaaahhh’s, but when it comes to approaching galleries and such, I get butterflies, and that is just when thinking about it. I don’t know what will happen once I actually take some images down to some of the local galleries. I will of course, but the first run through them will be interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.