Though I can appreciate the beauty of a well crafted painting, I usually miss the deeper meaning behind most works of art. Drifting through the galleries at the Walters Museum of Art in Baltimore I finally found a painting that speaks a language I can understand.
Allegory of Grammar, painted in 1650 by Laurent de La Hyre, depicts the art of grammar as a woman watering flowers that represent ideas. The artist’s objective is to show how grammar and clear writing allow ideas to bloom and prosper. I may be no art connoisseur but I certainly understand the merit of the artist’s work. The most intelligent ideas are worthless without a clear, coherent organization that allows them to be understood.
This is why celebrities hire ghost writers to help write their autobiographies. The heart of the book comes from the person who lived the anecdotes, but these anecdotes are not marketable if they are not expressed in a clear, interesting, clever way that captivates an audience.
The art of writing gives ideas their sophistication. For example, adolescence is a memorable time in many people’s lives and while some will say there are unique qualities to being an adolescent, few can verbalize their experience in a way that others will understand, even if these feelings are universal. In Catcher in the Rye, the late J.D. Salinger developed the characteristics of adolescence through his words, sentence structure, and organization so that the adolescent experience could be felt by his readers in a way that though many felt, few could express themselves.