Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

[Insert Witty Blog Post Title Here]

September 2nd, 2009 · 3 Comments

     I’m not one for long, verbose titles; I prefer to let my artwork (if a blog post could be considered such) stand on its own. I suppose that’s why The British Museum and The National Gallery appealed to me, because these museums are arranged in such a way that the art and artifacts are privileged over their context and allowed to speak for themselves. Information is available at both museums for those who want to learn more about an individual piece, but signage is simple and audioguides are discreet.

     I devoted most of my time spent at The National Gallery to the 18th-20th centuries exhibit, which featured works by Monet, Manet, Picasso, van Gogh and Degas. The piece which affected me most viscerally was Vincert van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” a painting which I had seen many times on postcards, coasters, prints hanging on water-damaged walls or in the only remains of my mother’s abandoned art degree – in her art books. Seeing this work in person was an incredible experience. Having the opportunity to experience the thoughts, emotions and perceptions of one of the world’s most renown artists though one of the world’s most renown pieces of artwork affected me very deeply. What struck me about works in both museums, but “Sunflowers” in particular, was the work’s enduring relevance diachronically. Though styles and historical contexts are particular to a piece of art and remain fixed, its meaning is mutable. This, I feel, is the true beauty of art.


vangogh_sunflowers1888  vincent-van-gogh-paintings-from-the-yellow-house-4  turner_fighting_temeraire


     At The British Museum, I had a similar reaction to seeing and touching part of a column which came from the Parthenon. It is amazing how these artifacts have managed to remain in tact and meaningful for thousands of years. One sign that caught my attention was one which told the story of how Lord Elgin brought pieces of the Parthenon back to England in 1806. The signage, as well as other historians and archaeologists, claims that Elgin essentially saved the artifacts from further destruction and preserved them by bringing them to England. However, now that Greece has the means to afford an appropriate Acropolis Museum, there is much debate regarding the British Museum’s collection of artifacts, uncluding a number of friezes.


London 8.28-8.30 318  London 8.28-8.30 335  London 8.28-8.30 342


     Both The National Gallery and The British Museum seem to honor artwork and artifacts over their historical context. Though considering where these pieces came from is crucial in understanding their meaning, perhaps where they are going, such as the friezes and sections of column of the Parthenon, and their relevance to our culture in the present and future is what should be more important.

Tags: Anya · Museums

Discovering Art at the National Gallery

August 25th, 2009 · No Comments

My first impression upon entering the National Gallery was skepticism that the art could possibly be any more beautiful than the building’s architecture. I’m not usually much of an art person (although I’m a HUGE Dalí fan), and I usually don’t spend much time in museums dedicated entirely to art. However, to my great surprise, I was abslutely fascinated by the thousands of paintings. Of course, I got to see paintings I thought I would only ever see in photos, such as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and Monet’s Japanese Bridge. Additionally, I chose to make note of paintings I previously was unfamiliar with that caught my eye. Of these, my favorite was Louis-Léopold Boilly’s A Girl at a Window. The oil on canvas painting originally attracted me because it is painted to look like a framed still image; therefore, it is in black and white and rather unique. As I drew closer, I noticed the clarity of the details, especially those of the fish in the bowl next to the girl. The painting is so clear, it could easily be mistaken for a modern-day cartoon or CGI. Being a terrible artist myself, I never imagined a handcrafted painting could look so smooth and realistic.

While looking at the medieval collection of the Gallery, I noticed various paintings depicting the Biblical scene of St. Michael the Archangel defeating the Devil. Carlo Crivelli’s St. Michael (1476), Bartolomé Bermejo’s St. Michael Triumphant Over the Devil (1468), and Piero della Francesca’s St. Michael (1469) all portray St. Michael similarly. He appears as a rather young looking boy wearing medieval style armory. However, Francesca opts to give the archangel wings instead of a cape. The most noticeable difference to me, though, is in the way the artists chose to represent the Devil. Crivelli’s Devil resembles a lizard-like demon, whereas Barmejo’s Devil is smaller and much more cartoonish and almost comical when compared to the triumphant St. Michael. Francesca’s is once again different from the other two, as he portrays the Devil as a simple serpent in the corner of the painting, which focuses on the archangel instead. These paintings fascinated me because of their diversity. I always knew styles of art changed over time, but I never really considered the diversity that could exist between the contemporary artists of a time period. Seeing these three paintings that show the same subject painted within a few years of one another helped me to appreciate the different ways in which artists might imagine their subjects.

Tags: Museums · Sarah