Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Colin Firth’s artwork makes me happy

September 14th, 2009 · No Comments

I can’t really say that today’s trip to the National Gallery was a highlight of my time in London.  As great as it is that the museum offers us a chance to view some of the world’s greatest paintings, it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea.  Personally I would have rather gone to the British Museum again.  Physical artifacts interest me much more than paintings.  Still, I won’ t pretend that I wasn’t moved by certain works of art.  They were few, but those paintings that did move me to some emotion other than vague interest I will always remember.

As one goes to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, one goes to the National Gallery to see the impressive collection of Monets and van Goghs, and of course the immortalizers of the English countryside, Constable and Gainsborough (though perhaps the collection at the Tate Britain is more complete for these two).  I’ll admit that upon entering I did make a beeline for van Gogh’s Sunflowers.  It has long been one of my favorite paintings and seeing it actually sitting on a wall in front of me was an exhilarating experience.  His technique is just so interesting.  It’s almost pointillism (for those of you familiar with painting technique, or Sunday in the Park with George).  The few pieces of da Vinci’s artwork made me feel small, almost unworthy to be looking at them (you have to understand, for me da Vinci is a god).

However, I think what made me the most happy about this museum was one painting: A Young Woman Standing at a Virginal by Johannes Vermeer.  Perhaps I simply love Colin Firth too much (plays the role of said artist in the movie version of Girl with a Pearl Earring.  watch it.  it’s fantastic) but there is just something about Vermeer’s paintings that makes me want to crawl inside the frame.  Perhaps it is the fact that all of them have virtually the same background (he painted them all in his attic studio), or perhaps it is his use of color and the play of light against the figures in his work.  Perhaps it is the simplicity of the scenes themselves, the normalcy of everything.  Whatever the case, his work inspires me to go home and pick up a paintbrush.  His figures just seem so real, like people the viewer has met before but can’t place.  This work of art is what made me look back on this trip as an enjoyable one.  It’s hard for me to describe just how much I love his work, so seeing it was amazing. 

According to the Pitmen Painters art is supposed to make us stand up and take notice.  It’s supposed to make us feel something, something indescribable that is unique to the person viewing it.  Though I didn’t feel that way about many of the paintings in the National Gallery, the few that did left me feeling winded.  I’m not sure I would go back again, but I will definitely remember the feelings I had when viewing those paintings for a long time to come.

Tags: Campbell

The Art I Like

August 30th, 2009 · 1 Comment

August 29, 2009

In my last blog, I mentioned how much I didn’t like the Tate Modern.  Conversely, but maybe not surprisingly, I LOVED the National Gallery.  I was especially excited to see works by Monet, and loved “The Grand Canal, Venice” in particular.  Since Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists, I was also amazed to see “Sunflowers” and “A Wheatfield with Cypresses” in person.  We continued to wander through rooms containing paintings by Renoir, Picasso, and many artists that I did not recognize (I found some new favorites to look into…Camille Pissarro, for one, who painted “Portrait of Felix Pissarro” and “The Boulevard Montmartre at Night”).  I was impressed by the sheer size and detail in many of the paintings, as well as their incredible preservation.  I always imagine paintings from so long ago to look old, but these looked as if they were painted yesterday.

The overwhelming majority of the museum’s earliest paintings focused either on mythology or the Virgin Mary/Jesus, and it gave me an idea about just how important these topics were to past generations.  Maddie and I discussed how Jesus is almost always interpreted as a tall, thin, fair complexioned man when in reality, he was probably short, squat, curly haired and dark in complexion based on his geographical location.  We also thought that “The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen” by a follower of Robert Campin looked almost modern due to how old fashioned it was.  It seemed, to us, that art has come full circle in some ways.   I was also surprised to stumble upon “The Birth of the Virgin” by Master of the Osservanza, because I’ve never thought or seen record of Mary’s birth.  The focus is almost always on the birth of the Christ child, and it was interesting to see another portion of the Biblical story that is entirely overlooked.

Tags: Amy