On Failure and Completion in Art: Revisiting “The Unknown Masterpiece” and “La Belle Noiseuse” [teaser]


Guy Amado


This article deals with issues that rise from confronting Honoré de Balzac’s famous short story The Unknown Masterpiece [1831] and the movie La Belle Noiseuse, from Jacques Rivette [1991], being the latter a loose cinematographic adaptation of the literature piece. In Balzac’s narrative, a 17th-century painter named Frenhofer intrigues a colleague and a young acolyte with tales of a painting he’s been struggling with for a decade. When he finally completes it, considering his work as a perfect realization of mimetic representation, the finished painting reveals itself not to be what it is expected to. Rivette’s approach of La Belle Noiseuse is less the one of an adaptation than as inspiration, a point of departure, keeping some of the original elements; the most notably being the philosophical fascination with the production of art, which is a point of interest here. It is our intention in this paper to underline aspects around the creative process, as the obsession in the search for a masterpiece but, above all, the idea of failure as a guideline, a decisive factor in art making. Both works addresses strong and relevant questions, such as “What can be considered a masterpiece?”, “How can we measure the significance of failure in the artistic process?”.



* Abstract de artigo ainda inédito, a ser apresentado no festival Avanca Cinema, em julho de 2014.

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