Does bad behavior trump genius in art?
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I think we can make a distinction between artists who reflect the cultural values or prejudices of their time, and artists who are truly abominations as human beings. When Mark Twain uses the N word in “Huckleberry Finn,” I believe it is a realistic piece of the picture, a time and place, torn by racism and bigotry. The same goes for Shakespeare’s and Dickens’s portrayals of Shylock and Fagan: dismaying but honest reflections of their time.
Some argue that art should always be separate from the artist, that a piece or work stands on its own despite the foibles of its creator. However, if charges of pedophilia or violent abuse turn out to be true against a writer or musician or painter, I know it would affect my appreciation of his or her work. The world of art is full and rich. If Hitler painted landscapes instead of houses, I wouldn’t want his work to survive in the rubble he left behind.
Copyright © 2014 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.