The world was never meant for one as beautiful as you

In my first year of university, I took History of Art 1.01.  It was a notorious course.  It was held during ‘first’ – the first lecture of the day – the lecture slot least attended by university students, let alone artistic university students and those studying arts degrees.  Not surprisingly, it had a high failure rate.

Of course, I was full of youthful idealism.  I didn’t for a second think I wouldn’t be bounding out of bed with the birds to soak up the gloriousness of “Learning”.  That lasted a semester.  For most courses.  But to be honest, History of Art got me out of bed.

The fat cherubs and seraphim of the renaissance.  The light and dark of the old masters.  The raw, human beauty of the realists.  The angles and anger of the modernists.  And the impressionists.  My god, the impressionists.  Those magicians of subtle colour.  The use of every deft brush stroke to carve movement and emotion.  The paint more than pigment and oils and water.  More than turpentine and dust cloths.  More than a man and an easel.

Alchemy.

So imagine my delight, after an hour and a half of museum meandering, of finding the section of the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to early 20th century artists.  Oh my.  Like a child at Christmas.  Monet, Cezanne,  Sisley, Pissarro, Seurat, Degas**, Renoir, Manet.  All of them were there.  I actually squealed with glee.

And then I saw the Van Gogh.  Wheat Field with Cypresses.  And maybe it was the jetlag, but my eyes instantly welled with tears.  It was so beautiful.  All the text books, projected images in lectures halls, didn’t prepare me.  For the colour.  The texture.  The raw vivid splendor.  God, I sound so dramatic.  But perhaps this is what art is.  Something that has to be experienced alone.  The ability of the artist to capture something that resonates with others.  A moment of connection.  But very, deeply personal. I don’t know.  All I know is that my tired, weary feet were forgotten.  My jetlag gone.  It was just me and this gorgeous, wild thing, shimmering with life even after almost 250 years.

I almost felt sorry for the Gauguin one frame on.*

*and god knows I didn’t give the Klimt, Matisse, de Kooning or Pollack their due.  Although both Monet’s Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog), a Rothko (#3) and a stunning Calder mobile made me stop and stare too.  And, for the time and place, I spent some time with the sweetly naïve Rockwells.  An embarrassment of riches. I need to go back and give them all more time.

**even if he did have a weird obession with ballerinas.

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19 thoughts on “The world was never meant for one as beautiful as you

  1. kyknoord says:

    They leave their mark, don’t they. I guess that’s another reason they call them Impressionists.

  2. nursemyra says:

    I cried when I peeped through the hole in the doors and saw this. Twenty years in the making.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcel_Duchamp#Etant_donn.C3.A9s

  3. I’ve had that happen, as well. Turn a corner and get smacked in the forehead by how beautiful a painting is. It doesn’t happen often. Fun fact: van Gogh painted over 800 paintings in his short life but only ever sold ONE!

    • Dolce says:

      I did know that actually. And yet his paintings are now some of the highest selling in the world. And interestingly, he’s far more remembered than many of the millionaires of his age. Makes you think.

  4. daisyfae says:

    it was the impressionists that sucked me in… easily digestible, passionate and beautiful. i think you may be right about the ‘experienced alone’ thing. my most enjoyable sojourns to art museums have been when flying solo…

  5. kono says:

    I love Vincent, man how i love Vincent. For the record i’d have stood and cried right along with you.

    • Dolce says:

      The strange irony of being so tapped into beauty that it’s painful. How awful for those who see all the crazy fragility of the world. How lucky too.

  6. robinaltman says:

    I love the impressionists. It’s amazing how different the painting looks as you change perspective. I’m awed at the genius involved.

    There’s a wonderful Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, MA. We go there sometimes in the winter to stay at a B&B and ski and play Trivial Pursuit. Not in the museum – in Stockbridge.

  7. lulu labonne says:

    I’ll never forget seeing the Van Goghs in the Amsterdam museum – he is fab

  8. Great art tends to have that effect, I think that is how you can tell it is great art and not just schlock. I have yet to see a Van Gogh in person, but I remember being entranced for over half an hour at the Smithsonian by their Monet exposition. Water Lilies. Amazing.

    This series of posts makes me want to go to New York, which is really interesting since mostly I abhor large cities full of gobs of mobs. But they have such wonderful museums.

  9. Seraphine says:

    i want to be weirdly obsessed with something. anything. ballerinas. the colour yellow. deep pits. words that rhyme with timbuktu.
    donesn’t one feel more ‘alive’ being obsessed?
    i mean, other than turning a doorknob three times before opening it. that’s not obsession.
    i mean something that lights up the brain, focuses the eyes, something that produces dopamine, pleasure, delight.
    weirdly.

  10. Talking about failure rates of the course, you’ve aged Van Gogh by 100 years – please stay after class for a word – [sorry, I used to teach art and just can’t let that go by ….. *slaps wrists*]

  11. I’ll never understand people who don’t like art museums. It’s a total deal-breaker. That, and people who don’t like cats. I mean, what is wrong with people? Do they not have hearts? (I think I just answered my own question.)

  12. Early this year the impressionists from the Musee de Orsay were exhibited in Canberra. The other side of the continent. Buff and I spent three and a half days there in February and spent a day and a half just wandering. Buff is a painter, I am not. The first five hours was wasted as we BOTH developed blurry eyesight at the beauty we were seeing. van Gogh’s Starry Night, his portrait of himself as a young man just blew us away. And Cezanne, Monet and all the rest. There were over a hundred paintings – even a couple of early Picassos! It was only on the second day, after we got over the “overwhelmed” thing that we were able to appreciate and study what was there on the walls. Even as a non-artist, I was totally blown away by the collection. The exhibition is currently in San Francisco and will be in Tokyo in the middle of next year.

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