“It’s only the background.”

Posted on August 12, 2011 by Feiko Beckers

In his book The Myth of Sisyphus Albert Camus writes that he can understand why the astronomer Galileo Galilei abjured his greatest scientific discovery when it started to endanger his life. According to Camus this discovery is not worth dying for at the stakes. He writes: “Whether the earth revolves around the sun or the sun revolves around the earth is a matter of profound indifference.”
      A friend of mine recently painted my portrait. I thought it was really well done. He asked me what color he should use for the background. At that time the background was still grey, but he was considering to change it to light blue.
      “What does it matter?” I answered. “It’s only the background.”
      My friend looked at me with amazement. Then he told me I do not know anything about painting. And that is probably true.
      But I still stand by it. Because what applies to Galilei’s scientific discovery also applies to the background in the painting. Whether the background in the painting is grey or light blue is also a matter of profound indifference.

The only thing that really matters is the person that is depicted. If in such a case one starts discussing the background instead of focusing on the depicted person, that person might feel offended. Something that in this case happened to me.
      It is not that I want to be in the center of attention all the time. But I think it is just a matter of politeness not to talk about backgrounds. Whether the background is grey or light blue or whether a woman is composing one by holding up some Moroccan fabric.

Photo: Lev Ilizirov

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