Audacity - in Life and in Art / by Jeannine Cook

Audacity - it is a wonderful word that makes me instantly imagine someone acting with verve, bravery and decision! What made me think of it was finding a quotation by Winston Churchill: "Beginning with audacity is a very great part of the art of painting."

Just recently, I have been doing a fair amount of reading as I try to recuperate. Two of the most interesting books I have read are Charles Glass' Americans in Paris; Life and Death under the Nazi Occupation and Jimmy Burns' Papa Spy: Love, Faith and Betrayal in Wartime Spain. Of course, a central figure in both books is Winston Churchill, then the Prime Minister in Great Britain during those critical World War II years. His courageous sagacity and pragmatism were remarkable in dealing with the daunting aspects of the conduct of war, the relationships with General de Gaulle and the Vichy regime in France, General Franco in Spain who had just consolidated his power after the Spanish Civil War and the battle, both on and off the actual battlefields, with the Nazis.

His remark about needing audacity to paint is very much in the same spirit as he showed in the multiple other aspects of his remarkable and chequered career. He knew from his own painting sessions that launching oneself into a painting requires a leap of faith, a boldness and a belief that somehow one will succeed in producing a decent work of art. He was pragmatic enough to know that this is not always the case - but like every other artist, he kept trying. In fact, it is remarkable that he managed to produce a large number of very successful paintings, given how little early exposure he had had to art. His audacity paid off. He also remarked of art: "I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body, more entirely occupies the mind." When boldness, decisiveness and concentration are united, art-making usually rewards one with a decent result. Churchill certainly gave us all inspiration - in art-making as well as in many other spheres.