Art is the necessity of the unnecessary, a daydream reshaped through the imperatives of the painter’s rectangle of canvas. And the power of certain great paintings, no matter how much self-conscious craft the artist brings to the work, is the quality of a daydream, an orchestration of elements whose meaning remains ambiguous or contradictory. The fascination of such a painting is directly related to the fascination of daydreams, for we do not necessarily want to know what they mean so much as we want to linger over them, sink into the luxuriant satisfactions of such fantasies, although we can also be alarmed or even repelled by their power. In daydreams meaning is never fixed. Jed Perl Antoine’s Alphabet: Watteau and His World.

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