From Painting to Poetry: Exploring E. E. Cummings’ Many ‘Talents’

Many people know very little about the visual art of E. E. Cummings, but most likely because in comparison to his poetic work, the quality was extremely lacking. Cummings’ paintings that he created centered on soft colors, surrealist portraits, and washed-out landscapes. While Cummings keeps consistency in his style of these abstract, soft-on-the-eyes themes, he does not possess as much artistic control in his visual work as he does his literary work. While celebrated for his usage of the abstract in order to portray complex emotions in his poetry, distinguished art critic Henry McBride carps upon his pieces. He remarks that his work is “thin, uncertain, and separated by some curious wall of inhibition.” Despite receiving critique rather than the usual praise for his work, Cummings insisted on refining his painting skills. However, Cummings’ reasoning is actually quite inspiring: When his college roommate asked why he always painted rather than producing more of his far-more-successful poetry, the poet replied that to him, painting did not come as easy to him. Thus, in developing his artistic skills, he was achieving a far more difficult, and hence, more important goal.

I attached this photo of a Cummings portrait to underscore his muted color choices and focus on a human subject, which can additionally be seen in his poetry:

Image result for cummings visual art portrait

Works Cited:

Cohen, Milton A. “E. E. Cummings: Modernist Painter and Poet.” Smithsonian Studies in                American Art, vol. 4, no. 2, 1990, pp. 55–74. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3108985.

 

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