Tom Stoppard’s Artist Descending a Staircase (1972) includes the memorable metaphor: “Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.” A neat turn of phrase.
The artist Donner speaks it, during an chatty intellectual argument with this friend and rival Beauchamp. Once a Dadaist, Donner has turned to painting representational scenes. It’s too much for Beauchamp and their mutual friend Martello, so they conspire to murder him in a manner alluding to Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912) by whacking him on the head so that he falls down a staircase dead.
Featured Image: Playbill for the New York production of T Artist Descending a Staircase. Directed by Tim Luscombe. New York, 1988.
See: Tom Stoppard. Artist Descending a Staircase. BBC (1972); Artist Descending a Staircase. London: Faber & Faber, 1988