Picasso and Hemingway. Two artists so famous and celebrated that I don’t need to write their first names. But, as Claire Dederer points out in her recent book Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma, they were both hypermasculine . . . and cruel and abusive to women.
Dederer has a theory on why this might have been the case:
“If you are handsomely rewarded for giving in to some of your impulses, doesn’t it begin to seem like all your impulses ought to be honored? Especially because it’s hard to tell the good from the bad. Why would you quash an impulse, no matter how savage or destructive, when it might be one and the same thing as the impulse that allows you to do this mysterious, free thing that everyone says is genius?”
This rings true to me. To be an artist, you have to let go of inhibitions. You have to reach into the deepest part of your soul and let it all hang out. All your emotions, desires, hopes, and fears: it all goes onto the canvas or the page. Little wonder that sometimes those primal urges bleed out into real life.
And yet. Surely a person can discern the difference between creating art about primal urges and acting them out. This is why Nabokov and his Lolita are in an entirely different category from Picasso and Hemingway.
There will always be a place in my heart for all three of these artists. But I will always know their difference.
Do you give your impulses free reign, while engaging in art or daily life?