Share, Listen, Think

Seeing Real Art

In Art on February 16, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Photo by Kent Bartlett

By Marianne Wood

When I first saw what would become my favorite Caravaggio, St. Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy, it drew me in, and I paused a minute or two, knowing it was special. Then as I drew away, I felt gripped by a clawing and growing emotion.  So I returned, to try and make sense of this feeling and this painting.  Further scrutiny helped me realize that the artist’s passion for his subject – a cloaked friar held tenderly by an angel in a mysterious setting – stirred my own passions and nearly left me weeping in a public space.

I have looked at art since I was a young girl visiting museums with my mother and grandmother, and have seen many of the great works – celebrated ones in celebrated spaces over decades of travel and touring – but this was my first experience with this kind of burst of emotion. I wished I could shoo away a dozen or so other fans, and sit alone with the piece.

Then there are the works that are like old friends. We have a relationship of sorts, and I visit them in permanent collections whenever I’ve a chance.

Recently while on a museum field trip escorting some high school students, I discovered a new “friend” in the Amon Carter Museum. I felt surprise and rewarded for patient investigation, as I rounded a corner and encountered a small bronze statue – a study actually, by John Storrs for a monument to Walt Whitman.  This machine-age work exhibited the glory and energy of American art coming of age in the 1920s.  I was still wallowing in the joy of this find when a text came from a fellow teacher:

“[Avery] says her mind is blown and she has questions for you. We are in the Kimbell perm collection if you don’t mind.”

I replied quickly, “I’ll b right there.”

tree branch fireworks

Photo by Samantha Brock

The student’s brain was on fire… she was almost literally bouncing up and down; between quick walks through the works that looked familiar to her after only one semester of art history.  Michelangelo’s first painting, created when he was only 13, was fresh on her mind.  There were many other works, both at the Kimbell and later at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which gave her the experience of what might be described as “art endorphins”.

I thank the artists who give us this art. A thank you too, to the architects, for making the experiences of the spaces wonderful. Also, a thank you to museum patrons, and our local foundation for funds to experience real art in person.

Which can make all the difference.

frosty alaska

Photo by Jill Molloy

Editor’s Note:

Have you had this happen? Times when you saw a painting, a sculpture or perhaps a vista and felt like crying, you were so moved? I wonder what is going on when that happens? What is it? Interesting to share and explore this issue. Not necessary though ~ enjoying it can be quite enough.  ~HR

Click “Comments” for an excerpt from “Anne of Green Gables.”

  1. “… It’s certain I’ll never be angelically good. Mrs. Spencer says—oh, Mr. Cuthbert! Oh, Mr. Cuthbert! Oh, Mr. Cuthbert!!!”
    That was not what Mrs. Spencer had said; neither had the child tumbled out of the buggy nor had Matthew done anything astonishing. They had simply rounded a curve in the road and found themselves in the “Avenue.”
    The “Avenue” … was a stretch of road four or five hundred yards long, completely arched over with huge, wide-spreading apple-trees, planted years ago by an eccentric old farmer. Overhead was one long canopy of snowy fragrant bloom. Below the boughs the air was full of a purple twilight and far ahead a glimpse of painted sunset sky shone like a great rose window at the end of a cathedral aisle.
    Its beauty seemed to strike the child dumb. She leaned back in the buggy, her thin hands clasped before her, her face lifted rapturously to the white splendor above. Even when they had passed out and were driving down the long slope to Newbridge she never moved or spoke. Still with rapt face she gazed afar into the sunset west, with eyes that saw visions trooping splendidly across that glowing background. Through Newbridge, a bustling little village where dogs barked at them and small boys hooted and curious faces peered from the windows, they drove, still in silence. When three more miles had dropped away behind them the child had not spoken. She could keep silence, it was evident, as energetically as she could talk.
    “I guess you’re feeling pretty tired and hungry,” Matthew ventured at last, accounting for her long visitation of dumbness with the only reason he could think of. “But we haven’t very far to go now—only another mile.”
    She came out of her reverie with a deep sigh and looked at him with the dreamy gaze of a soul that had been wondering afar, star-led.
    “Oh, Mr. Cuthbert,” she whispered, “that place we came through—that white place—what was it?”
    “Well now, you must mean the Avenue,” said Matthew after a few moments’ profound reflection.”It is a kind of pretty place.”
    “Pretty? Oh, *pretty* doesn’t seem the right word to use. Nor beautiful, either. They don’t go far enough. Oh, it was wonderful—wonderful. It’s the first thing I ever saw that couldn’t be improved upon by imagination. It just satisfied me here”—she put one hand on her breast—“it made a queer funny ache and yet it was a pleasant ache. Did you ever have an ache like that, Mr. Cuthbert?”

    From: “Anne of Green Gables,” by L.M. Montgomery

  2. My first love in the art world was Marc Chagall’s Dream Village. I was 8 years old and I would never be the same. I stared at it for as long as an 8 year old can, and then I bought a little postcard of it to stare at back home.
    While wandering through Vienna, 13 years later, I happened into an exhibit at the Albertina. It was Chagall’s illuminated texts. Beautiful. I felt like I was bonding with my old friend in a new way.
    Many other works have since moved my heart, the most recent (and one of the most powerful) was the Byzantine Fresco chapel at the Menil Collection in Houston. It was like being in a different world. Aesthetically perfect, or as close as I have ever seen. To me, that place represents all that art can be when it is on display. People should go see it! It’s leaving soon!!!

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