Once "artists" were holy men, but today's profession is more filled with entrepreneurs

By William Deresiewicz

Pronounce the word artist, to conjure up the image of a solitary genius. A sacred aura still attaches to the word, a sense of one in contact with the numinous. Art rose to its zenith of spiritual prestige, and the artist rose along with it. The artisan became the genius: solitary, like a holy man; inspired, like a prophet; in touch with the unseen, his consciousness bulging into the future. “The priest departs,” said Whitman, “the divine literatus comes.” Spirit stands opposed to flesh, to filthy lucre. Selling was selling out. Artists, like their churchly forebears, were meant to be unworldly. Professionalism represents a compromise formation, midway between the sacred and the secular. [link]

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