How & Why We Look at Art

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There’s something about the museum experience in Europe that is always different for me than any other museum experience in the world. Sure, part of it is the age and the seriousness of the history that hits you in the face, but there’s more.

We have some serious art in a handful of American museums and yet the experience isn’t the same partly because you’re not viewing the pieces in their historical ‘frame.’ The building, the people, the energy in the air. None of it exists despite how old the pieces are that hang on its young American walls.

Visiting museums and visiting them often is also not encouraged in the same way it is in Europe. When I lived in Amsterdam, I had a regular pass to get into all the art museums whenever I liked.

It was so inexpensive that I didn’t have to think about it….for a moment. A fleeting moment. That’s what you want when you want to not just encourage cultural and historical learning, but seed it again and again so it remains with you like a sledgehammer.

The sledgehammer impact is what makes art embedded in a European’s life, why they take it more seriously and why it matters to visit the buildings that house such wondrous pieces, not just once, but again and again.

The Hermitage and Le Louvre are two experiences that linger; they stay with you throughout your life. While I’ve only been to the former once, I tend to make a stop to Le Louvre nearly every time I go to Paris if time allows.

Why? Because the experience matters; its one that draws me in and lingers like an incredible dish that took two weeks to prepare and you still relish twenty years later.

The way I look at art has also changed over the years. We start with what is perfect, as seen by the world. For example, the Impressionists – who doesn’t love them? Old Dutch friends used to joke with me that Impressionism was the only period that Americans loved or could resonate with, equating their taste to a popular northern California oaky chardonnay.

Sure, oak and butter in your chard is fabulous indeed, and Kistler remains my favorite. But, what about the more complex choices, where you have to dig for the layers, the layers behind and beyond that take years of tasting, looking, seeing and hearing to truly appreciate?

And so, our tastes change.

What I noticed about this trip was my obsession with paintings from the 1400s and 1500s.

I paid attention to the way the men and women exchanged their love and their duties among each other. To the way children were portrayed. To the colors they used. To the animals that were included or not and when. To the vibrancy of the food. The clothing. The lack of clothing. All of it. Take this one for example….look at the way she looks at him.

Pietro Berrettini dit Pierre de Cortone painted around 1643

Paintings at LeLouvre - Pietro Berrettini dit Pierre de Cortone - Romulus et Remus recueillis par Faustulus - taken vers 1643 (20)

A handful of other favorites I spent time with:

Giovanni Battista di Jacopo dit Rosso fior enino painted between 1530 and 1540

Paintings at LeLouvre - Giovanni Battista di Jacopo, dit Rosso fior enino - Pieta taken 1530-1540 (29)

Florence around 1483 by Alessandro Filipepi dit Botticelli

Paintings at LeLouvre Florence around 1483 by Alessandro Filipepi dit Botticelli (1)

Louis (ou Antoine) LE NAIN: La Forge

Paintings at LeLouvre2 - Louis (ou Antoine) LE NAIN - La Forge  (13)

Antonio Puccio dit Pisanello: Portrait D’Une Jeune Princess, painted between 1435 and 1440

Paintings at LeLouvre - Antonio Puccio dit Pisanello - portrait dune jeune princess - vers 1435-1440(9)

Bernardo Strozzi: Portrait De Jeune Homme around 1635

Paintings at LeLouvre - Bernardo Strozzi - portrait de jeune homme taken vers 1635 (22)

Ecle Espagnole: La Dame Aux Penses – she was more intense than she may look here

Paintings at LeLouvre - Ecle Espagnole - la dame aux penses (24)

LOVED the energy in this one…

Paintings at LeLouvre (34)

I’ve always been mesmorized by the Giuseppe Arcimboldo series: L’automne, Le Printemps, L’Hiver and L’Ete painted around 1573.

Paintings at LeLouvre - Giuseppe Arcimboldo - Lautomne and Le Printemps taken around 1573 (18)
Paintings at LeLouvre - Giuseppe Arcimboldo LHiver and Lete (17)

Jacques-Louis David: Madame Charles-Louis Trudaine around 1791-1792

Paintings at LeLouvre - Jacques-Louis DAVID - madame charles-louis trudaine taken in around 1791-1792 (41)

Ippolito Andreasi dit Landreasino

Paintings at LeLouvre - Ippolito Andreasi dit Landreasino (31)

Part of a much larger piece: romantic, soft, dreamy

Paintings at LeLouvre2 (6)

And, in all its intensity: Atelier De Giotto: La Crucifixion

Paintings at LeLouvre  - Atelier De GIOTTO - La Crucifixion(11)

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