Many years ago I read “The Agony and The Ecstacy” by Irving Stone. It’s a fabulous & powerful recounting of the life story of Michelangelo BuonarrotiÂ – an amazing reading journey which I think every artist should undertake at some stage in their career.
Today in “Inspirational Stories“, I stumbled across a story of one of Michelangelo’s many adventures (as told by Tom Russell). It’s inspiring and thought-provoking and sheds much light on the role of the true artist – so I wanted to share it with you….
The artist Michelangelo often stirred up the opposition of the contemporary artists of his day. Many of them envied his magnificent abilities. One example was the architect Bramante.
Pope Julius retained Michelangelo to build him a splendid tomb. Michelangelo gladly accepted the project and spent eight months in a marble pit personally cutting and selecting the most perfect stones. When he returned, he found the pope had second thoughts. Bramante had turned Pope Julius against the project. The Pope cancelled it.
Later the idea for another special project entered the Pope’s mind. Bramante saw the project as a time consuming trap for which there would be little public recognition. Bramante recommended Michelangelo for the job.
The great artist saw the trap. He knew what Bramante was up to. He wished to turn the project down but did not want to refuse the Pope’s request. So Michelangelo went to work. He spent many years doing the slow and tedious labor the project required. It was the Sistine Chapel.
The inspiration that flowed through Michelangelo can likewise flow through any human being. That is what the inspiration wants to do. It cannot be stopped. It is a living, powerful river that easily circumvents all obstacles.
Where does that “living, powerful river” wish to take you with your art? And how can you flow with it to circumvent your obstacles and live your purpose as an artist?
As a side note: In 2006 I visited St Peters in Rome. I was not able to see the Sistine Chapel because of my schedule but I can tell you this – St. Peter’s staggered my imagination. I had read of all the accomplishments of Michelangelo and his contemporaries but the sheer scale and beauty of St. Peter’s Cathedral took my breath away. These artists were not just great artists – they were also amazing builders and project managers. When you look at the scale and complexity of the St Peter’s dome it’s hard to imagine how that could be built – even today. If you ever get the opportunity please visit this amazing place – it will inspire the artists in you like nothing else!
That story reminded me of some advice I once received: Whatever you do, do it to the very best of your ability!