May 29, 2023Liked by Henry Oliver

Complexity for the sake of complexity, and certainly Baroque complexity, obscures rather than clarifies. The finished product needs to be only so complex, and no more. Hoffer's note about Michelangelo's "purgation of superfluities" brings to mind an apocryphal remark attributed to Michelangelo, about the difficulty of sculpting his David. He was supposed to have said, quite modestly: "It's easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn't look like David." This idea of paring away naturally applies to sculpting, in which you subtract until you reach the ideal form; and the witticism has been repeated often in various contexts; for example applied to poetry and life:

"It is the sculptor’s power, so often alluded to, of finding the perfect form and features of a goddess, in the shapeless block of marble; and his ability to chip off all extraneous matter, and let the divine excellence stand forth for itself. Thus, in every incident of business, in every accident of life, the poet sees something divine, and carefully scales off all that encumbers that divinity, and permits it to be revealed in all its transcendent loveliness."


I prefer George Sand's remark on the artist's quest for simplicity: "Simplicity is the most difficult thing to secure in this world; it is the final limit of experience and the ultimate effort of genius."

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This is what so many writers don't understand. The writing style should adapt to whatever it is you're writing and same goes for other forms of art.

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May 29, 2023·edited May 29, 2023

One can't possibly apply such a judgment across all of Baroque art and architecture, as there are too many underachieved examples. But I don't dispute that Baroque complexity, if not overcooked, yields sublime work. What I perhaps was not clearly expressing was the idea that complexity for the sake of complexity can end up going astray.

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