LITERATURE: Evaluating

Now here is where everyone will jump down my throat, but something just came up that somehow relates to our ongoing literary questions of good, bad, and says who?

In one of the boxes my husband brought home from his grandmother’s house was a framed pencil drawing of a young woman.  I did a doubletake when I first caught a glimpse of it because it was so much in the style of my mother’s drawings.  Same era, 1929-1933.  I studied it carefully, looked up the artist on the internet and found nothing.  I cleaned it up and put it aside, then took another, closer look. 

While the face was in profile, approximately 1/2 scale, some of the subject’s features were full profile, while others hinted at a slight degree of angled view.   And the hair; P. W. Galpin couldn’t draw hair anywhere near the level of competency of my mother.  My mother was, I nod sadly, a much better artist than evidenced by this piece by a stranger.

What!?!?!?  Can you compare two different pieces of art and propose that one is better?  But I think that in a case such as this, that you can.  The work is similar enough, separated by a number or two of pencil lead softness, that it would not come down to perception or even technique, and certainly not medium, but this:  execution of pencil strokes.  One enjoyed drawing hair and shadows, the other artist was not as skilled or simply didn’t enjoy that part of a portrait (these are heads only).  Am I naturally prejudiced toward’s my mother’s?  Maybe, but it has nothing to do with that.  I think that most people seeing this piece compared with one of my mother’s drawings would easily agree that one is a bit more skillfully accomplished an artist, or one piece has been more skillfully executed.   

Heck, even I can draw better hair than this.  So then, what have I proven?  Perhaps only that in some cases, there is sometimes a viable criteria for what is good, and what is better.  At least in looking at the two works in only this manner.  Needless to say, there are other ways of looking at the pieces as well, despite their great similarity in nature.  I shall try again to scan them in to get viewable images to allow you to judge for yourselves.

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