Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Passion for Art Museums


If given a day all my own, to spend as I choose, I would pick an art museum every time. Did you know that about me?

As I considered which of my passions to write about, I realized that I've never written here about how much I love art. Especially art museums. Quiet time in an art museum with my journal is as soul renewing for me as poetry, laughter, and the ocean. Something magical happens after I've been in an art museum for about 15 minutes. I can feel my shoulders relaxing; knots of tension I didn't know I had - dissolving. My breath slows, deepens; fills me. My mind stills. And spins. Seems to listen. With my eyes. Do you know what I mean?


This happens for some people at the ocean, at church, while watching a sleeping baby. Me, too. But, never so reliably as at an art museum. To me, art museums are a soul place. The sacred hush, the near-reverent whispers, the overwhelming beauty... all feed my soul. Many, many times I've stood in front of an old favorite, or a new discovery and thought this. This exactly:

Imagine, Relyn. Imagine! The world is full of such wonders. And you are alive to witness them.


That's it, I guess. An art museum holds the best of us. No, that's not quite right. It holds the best of us, made tangible. They are amazing treasure troves. Storehouses that connect us backward in time, the threads reaching back for centuries. Yes, even then, people worshiped beauty. People cared about their homes. Men were handsome and women loved clothing. Yes, even centuries ago, people felt lost and lonely. People were found, loved, cherished.

And always, always, people ached to express themselves. To create beauty that outlasts them and stands as testament. To create something that says, "I was here. I lived. I laughed. I made this. With my own two hands, and all of my heart. See? Look. Look. It's my gift. To you."


I remember exactly when I fell in love with art. I was 17 and headed to college. I needed a planner for the first time. I chose one called American Impressionists that had reproductions on every other page. It also had a little blurb about each artist and painting. That's it. A consuming love affair began with a calendar. One glimpse of a Pissaro landscape, and I was in love.


About a year later, my family was in New York City for one day. I absolutely insisted that I spend some of that time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. How could I not after Claudia's adventures? My family loves me, so they spent hours in a museum they cared nothing about. Just to please me. I went in to see my beloved Impressionists. And. And...


I discovered an entire world. A world I never knew existed. Impressionists? YES! But. But there is so much more. Just within painted works, you could spend a day listing all the isms and movements. There is so much to see. So many worlds to encounter. So many dreams to enter.


Years later, I remember thinking that I did not care for modern art. And then I attended La Vista Modernista at the Philbrook. Oh, yes I do. I absolutely love modern art. Art has so much to share. If only you'll listen. Listen with your eyes. With your slowed breath. With an open heart.


There is no place like an art museum to fill you with beauty, to challenge your preconceptions. To make you think, to make you dream. To fill you with longing, to take your breath away. To remind you, above all, that it is a very wonder to be human, to be alive, to bear witness to such beauty as this.


The images in this post are just a few of the many paintings (plus one sketch) that I love. Title and artist are listed below in order of appearance.
Chop Suey by Edward Hopper, Villas a Trouville by Gustave Caillebotte, Cakes by Wayne Theibaud, Hide and Seek by Tissot, Yeats by John Singer Sargent, Woman with Black Feather Boa by Toulouse Lautrec, Almond Blossom by Vincent Van Gogh, Allegory, Boy Lighting Candle in Company of Ape and Fool by El Greco, Around the Lamp by Carl Larsson, Golconda by Rene Magritte.

27 comments:

Miko's Girl said...

I love the quiet calm of art museums. I took the girls when they were little one day and handed them note pads so they could sketch like art students do - I was hoping to buy myself some time to observe. They wound up being carted around the museum by the guards who they had charmed while I quickly observed the art. The Chrysler Museum in ten minutes or less - that adequately describes that day.

I did not like Surrealism until I went to the Dali Museum in Tampa. Now I enjoy it.

Thanks for sharing your passion.

Laura said...

Okay, I feel all tingly after reading this. I think the next free day I have I am running up to the Art Institute of Chicago. I forgot all of these feelings inside me about art. Through art you can learn so much; about history, culture, love, life.

What a wonderful post. You have made my day a better one dear friend.

Cam@Journey Wildly said...

Thank you for sharing these tangible pieces of history, Relyn.

'Hide and Seek' makes me nostalgic for simplier days...

{P.S-As a child, I loved hearing shoes click~clacking on museum floors. it reminded me of a typewriter}

dutchbaby said...

I saw a reflection of my heart in this post, dear Relyn. Thank you!

You presented many of my favorite paintings -- Hopper, Van Gogh, Thiebaud -- but some are new to me. The Tissot is simply charming.

spread your wings said...

oh Relyn, can we please go to a museum together?
I have always loved museums as well. Having the opportunity to go to many of the famous museums in Paris was a highlight. I would say my favorite's are the Impressionist painters. Do you know Pierre Bonnard's work - he painted personal feelings, memory, emotion - I love his interior paintings. But I can say I love a wide variety of art.
lovely post - so nice to learn new things about you.

SE'LAH... said...

Lovely post. Absolutely love the raining men...but what grabbed my eye at first was the women at the table drinking. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Colleen said...

and here i thought i was the only one that adored art museums.
:-)

there truly is magic there and history and inspiration.

i think about the person who created the piece and i think about all the other people who have witnessed this beauty before me and all the people to come after me.

art binds us together as human beings.

what a wonderful post Relyn. thank you for sharing that part of you.

Jessica said...

This summer my grad class spent the night at the art museum learning the art of observation..and it was one of the most valuable classes I've ever taken. It only enriched my love of art...I can spend hours and hours at the gallery!

smith kaich jones said...

I used to work weekends in the local art museum, and the director at that time was very, very big on showing & promoting regional art. I remember a painting I used to look at every weekend. Looked at it & looked at it & finally saw it. And was amazed! It remains one of my very favorite all time pieces of art, and one of my all time fun jobs. Wonderful post.

:) Debi

anna said...

Yes! I love how you put it, I feel exactly the same way... I love these places I find where I can witness the best of what a soul can put forward into the world.... all that we get to see in in these collections are the highest and best of what these artists had to share with the world... and what a thing that I get to take that in... across the centuries and continents!

Thank you for sharing your favorites. I particularly love the Tissot. : )

veronica said...

when i was greeted by hopper at the beginning of your post, i knew i was in for a great read. it's nice to encounter others who feel similarly about art and museums. i tend to visit museums alone simply because my museum philosophy is to go slow, to linger, and to savor. i don't want to rush the beauty or the impact. it has to completely set in and hit me at the core. and sometimes, after just a few pieces, i feel so full that i'm not sure i can take in much more without bursting. thank you for sharing!

Char said...

I love the solitude and quiet of art museums where I can emerse deeply into them.

Elizabeth said...

I am enjoying the raining men painting; it reminds me of the black hat man (from The Thomas Crowne Affair, same artist, I think) painting.

I love art museums too. There are pieces that I could sit in front of for days and days because they feed my soul.

sallymandy said...

Lovely post. I fell in love with art when I was in college and found a poster of Rooms by the Sea by...Edward Hopper, who you featured in your post! Lots of great pieces here.

Thanks for visiting my blog Relyn. I'm going to follow yours.

Maithri said...

My dear friend,

How wonderful it always is
to come and sit quietly with you by your fire...

To listen to you whispering love and singing wonder to the kindred hearts who gather here in this place..

There is a quiet glory in what you share here in this post.

"To listen with our eyes"....Wow!...Yes...

To awaken the senses in such a way that our eyes can hear the music...
Such is the power of spirit.

Spirit infusing the physical, the sensual, and opening it up...not demeaning or denying it... but enfolding it... expanding it...rapturing every quiet atom... until all is suffused with wild breath of love...

I could sit with each of these treasures you have shared here...and be drawn in to their richly told stories....

And as for your painted words dear Relyn... I cannot imagine any traveller walking lifes path who would not be warmed, moved, by what you share so freely from your heart...

To you and the precious circle of souls that surrounds you... I send love

Always love,

Maithri

jae said...

Thaat was a beautifully written post. You really captured how that escape into other worlds, places and times, can make you feel. The ironic thing is that I posted a very cute and inspiring video today about daring to make art.

Tina { Luphia Loves... } said...

what lovely paintings! that blossom with the aqua background is one of my favs! i went to see it in amsterdam too! :)

jfrancis said...

Great art
and great poetry
wraps itself around
your innermost being.

ELK said...

the echos
the images
the hush
the light
the smell
art means love!

dianeinjapan said...

Beautiful post! I fell in love with art around age 16 or 17, myself. I really considered a major in art history--I know I would have loved it!

robin bird said...

that was a wonderful visit into your mind and a true inspiration of passion. i love listening to you through your writing. i always feel as though i can close my eyes and go wherever it is you want to take me. you really do have many, many passions!
xo

Derrick said...

Hello Relyn,

Looks like I've missed a day or two! Art galleries do hold such treasures and on such a scale that, often, we can become defeated by the richness! It must be wonderful to have a local gallery, close enough to spend a short visit frequently, soaking up the splendour in stages.

Christina said...

Ahh yes, I know what you mean. That feeling of walking around the art museum and finding the pieces that stop you in your tracks. They call to you, they easily know your name. These art museums share a time of the past. A passion and a love that lives on, long after the artist have gone on.

Yes, I really do know what you mean.
xo

TheChicGeek said...

Oh, how your blog makes my heart sing. "I love the way you said,
There is no place like an art museum to fill you with beauty, to challenge your preconceptions. To make you think, to make you dream. To fill you with longing, to take your breath away. To remind you, above all, that it is a very wonder to be human, to be alive, to bear witness to such beauty as this." Perfectly expressed. Thank you!

Jeanie said...

Oh, yes, yes, and yes again! And I'm so glad you included Carl Larsson, whom I think most don't recognize. I love the feeling and emotion of his work.

I'm enjoying your guest bloggers very much and am so glad I discovered you!

shadesofjoan said...

Dear beautiful Relyn~
As I come up for air, you are the very first 'friend' I've come to visit, and what a gorgeous artist date your postings have been for me! I was wonderfully surprised to see guest bloggers, and I sat here drinking in the beauty of your words and art as I too (of course) have a love affair with Art Museums.
I smiled to see that we love some of the same artists... Hopper, Van Gogh, and Magritte are all on my short list :)
I cannot thank you enough for sharing of yourself as deeply as you do in this warm and embracing 'place'.
And to thank you for thinking of me, and for checking in... it meant the world to me at a time when I was harried, harried, harried.
Thank you my beautiful friend, and Happy, Happy Spring to you!

xoxoxo
joan

Jaime said...

I am going to Europe for the very first time this summer...and I am sure I am going to be blown away by some of the art that I am going to see. There is so much out there to experience isn't there? It's mind-boggling really.

Oldies, but Goodies