Artist of the Naive Type

This painting by Schoenberg shows the composer and a couple of his cronies getting stinkers in an Austrian beer garden. (Schoenberg is at the back, leaning over a table.)

Schoenbergdrunk I wonder what words of Adorno would be most appropriate? Perhaps these:

“When the not exactly avant-garde public of Naples proved to be less than enthusiastic about Pierrot lunaire, or when a comic opera with a highly complex structure failed to become the darling of the public in Frankfurt, Schoenberg could hardly understand it. He thought of his music as music like that of the Masters, nothing else. His listener must also have something of this naïveté, which is characteristic not only of Schoenberg’s private behaviour but also of Schoenberg as an artistic type, all the while people are trying to persuade the listener of the opposite.”

Perhaps not. The picture is not that serious.

I’ve often thought about Adorno’s characterization of artists as naive. He means spontaneous. He also means not taking direction from the world around them, but nevertheless open to experience. Naive does not mean unaware—more like unable to adapt one’s behaviour to others. To have a natural response to the environment, in other words a response that the conformist type finds inappropriate, but which later turns out to be exactly right. Can the naive artist be aware of their own naivety without loss? I think so. The inscription at the top of the picture reads “breaking open a new bottle at dawn.” Scenes of debauchery should always have a pastoral setting.

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