Wednesday, January 07, 2004


The word "masterpiece" used to mean the first work an artist did to demonstrate their mastery of their chosen form. Without a format of apprentices, journeyman and masters in the field of art it loses some of it's literal relevance.

That's probably something of a loss to us really, if for no other reason than we have a world of pretentious artists out there who all imagine themselves masters with no basis for that belief other than ego.

I was reminded of this to some extent while watching the great cinematographer Tonino Delli Colli explain how Sergio Leone came to directing on the Once Upon A Time In The West DVD. He decries how everyone sees themselves as a director and a genius now without coming up through the ranks. There's a truth there, despite whatever geniuses may have come forth without going through the ranks we might name as exceptions.

Now, "masterpiece" is used merely to mean an artist's best work. I accept that language changes, so I'm not fighting this change as much as mourning the loss. No word remains to express what a "masterpiece" originally was, while there were already dozens of ways to say something is their best. This change is not a change of addition or enrichening but a subtraction and a loss of richness in language as well as culture.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Google Analytics