The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau
By Jon Agee
The incredible painting of Felix Clouseau revolves around the story of an uncelebrated artist named Felix Clousseau who enters his paintings into a contest held by the Royal Palace in France. At first, Clousseau’s painting in dubbed ‘outrageous.' But then his painting comes alive! Clousseau wins the contest and acquires instant fame. However, when more of his paintings come to life and chaos ensues in Paris, Clousseau is sent to Prison until a painting of his helps to catch a notorious burglar and Clousseau is released once again. Clousseau goes back to his studio... and walks back into his painting.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
The Incredible Painting of Felix Clousseau raises philosophical questions about the role of realism in art. Throughout the book, we see judgments about Clousseau’s paintings change as they come to life. In some instances, his paintings are celebrated as they come to life; in others, they are scorned. This brings us to think about what the goal of artists should be.
Right at the outset of the story, we are introduced to the philosophical discussion of the influence of preconceived ideas and notions as we judge aesthetics. When Clousseau enters his painting into the contest and competes against celebrated artists, his paintings are dubbed ‘outrageous’ next to those paintings created by the famous artists. These comments raise questions concerning standards for judgment. The first question set focuses on why his paintings were laughed at, and if it was fair to assume that because Clousseau was not famous, his paintings were worse than the paintings of artists who were famous. Is it safe to assume that all paintings created by one good artist are good? For example, we often hear people say, “It is a Picasso." Therefore, we assume the painting is good. We need to question how true is it to claim that all paintings created by these artists were better than an artist who was not as celebrated as Picasso.
Another philosophical issue that arises in the story includes the debate on the goal of art and its nature. Clousseau’s paintings are scorned until it comes to life. Once it does come to life, Clousseau wins the contest and attains fame. This brings us to ask what the goal of art should be. Realists believe that the goal of art should be to recreate objects according to secular empirical values that are considered to exist in reality without being subject to interpretation or embellishment. Realists also believe that art is a vehicle of truth and therefore act as an important tool for society to judge the present and therefore, getting aesthetic principles wrong was to fundamentally mislead society. Bringing this debate down to a lower level, the debate should focus on making the children think about what they think about a painting that was not ‘real.' For example, a painting with a pink elephant? Or a spotted tiger. A dog with wings? Would NOT accurately depicting reality make the painting a ‘bad painting’?
Finally, the book also draws our attention to the debates of the subjectivity of art. When the ‘Boa constructor’ comes to life and scares the French aristocrat, the painting is considered bad and Clousseau is sent to jail. This brings us to the debate on what influences our judgment about art and the debate on the subjectivity versus objectivity of art. Some people celebrated Clousseau’s ‘live’ paintings, while others, like the French aristocrat, did not. In the same manner, some may believe that art cannot and should not be limited to the narrowness of ‘reality’ or ‘the truth,' instead, art should be autonomous and should be free from ‘rules.' This highlights the difference of opinion when it comes to art. The children can be asked to compare their favorite paintings and asked if it is okay that different people like different paintings?.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
When Clousseau entered his painting, the judges called it "outrageous"
The goal of art
All over the city, Clouseau's paintings come alive and he is celebrated for it.
The nature of Art
The judge liked Clousseau’s paintings when it came alive but the French aristocrat didn't.