One of my favorite quotes is “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but the moments that take our breath away.” I’ve learned that when traveling I am often surprised by when I have my breath taken away. Some times it is at all the expected places, others it is completely unexpected.
Art has the power to speak to you in ways that words can’t. It can reach down to your inner most feelings and express hidden thoughts or ideas.
One of the most amazing moments in my life was standing in front of Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia in Florence. He was so beautiful that I cried. His eyes were piercing, his body was perfect, his size was overpowering. It was the first time that art spoke to me in almost a paralyzing way. I just stood there for almost an hour looking at him. The most amazing thing was that my son, then 13, had a similar experience. He was transfixed by this majestic artwork.
Last year I had a similar experience and I must say it was very unexpectedly. I love impressionists and I simply can’t stand many modern art pieces, especially cubist. They don’t speak to me. Picasso has never been one of my favorites. I respected his work but I simply didn’t get it. That is until I stood in front of Guernica.
I never knew that a painting could make me hear the cries of pain and anguish that this majestic painting did. It was like I was transported into that awful scene and I was helpless, I couldn’t stop the slaughter. All I could do was witness it. It was such a powerful experience. I hope I am a better person because of it, that when I see injustice I will try stopping it so no more Guernicas will happen.
I must say that I was expecting a similar experience when I went to the Louvre. Mona Lisa is one the masterpieces of all time. I am sad to say that I didn’t feel the overpowering experience that David or Guernica gave me. There was a painting in the grand gallery that caught my eye so Mona Lisa was almost secondary.
One of my favorite Impressionist art experiences was visiting Monet’s Water Lilies (Nympheas) at the Orangerie in Paris. Once again the size is impressive. The play of color, light and movement make this work so interesting. There are several panels that show all the different seasons and times of the day. And he did it while going blind. The will power and the passion that certain people display never cease to amaze me. I am sad that I was not able to visit his garden, but it’s on my to do list next time I am in Paris.
Renoir is my all time favorite painter and I am so lucky to live near Chicago where I can often visit my favorite painting, Two Sisters. I simply run up the stairs of the Art Institute of Chicago and find the girls. I must always say hello them first. The colors are so vivid and the size is powerful. I wish I could paint like that, brush strokes that don’t seem to have a purpose but overall give you a play of light, depth and texture.
When traveling go to the museums don’t miss out on some of these experiences. I know some museums can be very boring, some can be very exhausting but you never know what will move you. After all “a picture is worth a thousand words” and you will be a better person for having taken that mental picture.