“Patrick Henry Bruce was one of the early and most ardent Matisse pupils and soon he made little Matisses, but he was not happy. In explaining his unhappiness he told Gertrude Stein, they talk about the sorrows of great artists, the tragic unhappiness of great artists but after all they are great artists. A little artist has all the tragic unhappiness and the sorrows of a great artist and he is not a great artist.”
— Gertrude Stein, in The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
How true. And how rarely said. Gertrude Stein, who was a great artist, records this bit of conversation with someone who was almost a great artist. Pat Bruce was a very very good painter, but he was also a perfectionist, and always measured himself against the very greats, such as Picasso and Matisse. He destroyed many of his own paintings, and ultimately committed suicide in 1936.
For the less-than-great artist, then, and for the little artist, which is most of us, sorrows pile upon sorrows, and the invisibility of those sorrows is not least among them. Stein’s book is the only place I have ever come across an acknowledgement of this indivisibility of the artist’s work —