Building peace in the minds of men and women

Famous authors as artists

This issue presents a glimpse of what the Editors believe to be a unique panorama of vast though little-explored perspectives.

Much has been written about famous authors in biographies, encyclopedias and literary studies. But no one, as far as we are aware, has yet attempted a study, on a world-wide basis, of famous authors as artists, that is, of the many great men and women of letters who have sought to satisfy their hunger for self-expression not only by writing novels, plays or poetry but also by sketching, drawing or painting either as a vocation or as an amusing pastime.

In his monumental work on Bach, Albert Schweitzer (doctor, author, theologian and musician all in one) has written: "We are in the habit of designating an artist according to the medium he uses to translate his inner life: musician, if he employs sound; painter, if he uses colours; poet, if he uses words. One must admit, however, that these categories, established by external criteria, are somewhat arbitrary. The soul of the artist is a complex whole in which the gifts of the poet, the painter and the musician are all blended in proportions infinitely variable."

And was it not Schweitzer, again, who asked: "Is it the painter or the poet who dominates in the soul of Michelangelo?" and then added, "Many artists, like Goethe, have passed from painting to verbal description and yet remain what they were, that is, artists."

The preparation of this number has meant wading through hundreds of biographies, autobiographies, intimate journals and letters. Indeed, if there is one thing noteworthy about information on "author-artists" it is its absence or inaccessibility.

This issue has no pretensions of being exhaustive either in treatment or in coverage. Certain names have undoubtedly been omitted because the authors' artistic inclinations have escaped us; many others simply through lack of space. We have therefore sought to restrict our choice to a number of well-known novelists, playwrights and poets from different lands. Painters who also wrote, or musicians who also painted are not included. Thus, Richard Wagner, for example, does not appear despite the fact that there is hardly a scene, hardly a costume in his Tetralogy and other operas for which he himself did not make the preliminary sketches.

Nor are great works of art or masterpieces the major criteria for inclusion. In most cases the author's genius is obviously to be found in his writings not in his drawings. Yet these drawings and paintings reveal an important aspect of the author's character, and help us toward a better understanding of the man and his writings. In some cases, however, genius has revealed itself in both writing and painting.

The Unesco Courier hopes that readers will find as much enjoyment and pleasure in this issue as the Editors had in putting it together.

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August 1957

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