Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Van Gogh Would Cut Off His Other Ear

What was the first painting that grabbed your imagination? Where did you see it? How did it make you feel?

My parents had Janson's History of Art in our bookcase while I was growing up. It was huge and I could barely lift it to the table. I would devour those pages of paintings as I imagined the stories taking place in them. We only had one TV and I didn't have first rights to it. The book was entertainment. (And I walked miles to school in the snow...)

Botticelli, Caravaggio and Dali were among my favorites for their drama and symbolism. I was just as fascinated with the painters themselves. When I was failing French in high school, a self-imposed book report (practically a thesis) on Paul Gauguin saved my grade. I didn't care for his art, but he was French and fairly interesting.

My parents took me to all the museums within driving distance and if you dated me, you got dragged to The National Gallery and The Philadelphia Museum of Art. And you liked it! I minored in Art History in college and had to buy my own Janson's History of Art. It is in my living room bookcase now. My kids have only cracked it a few times. Too many TVs!

As a reporter, I covered all the big exhibits for the Philadelphia Museum of Art and finally found an appreciation for Impressionistic and Modern art. Cezanne's work, and everyone's, is all the more interesting if you know the history behind it.

And to think people had these paintings in private home collections....

My parents have a couple treasured oil paintings on their walls. They are landscapes on canvas from the 1800s. Original art lends a legitimacy and intimacy to rooms, the way books do. I think that's what is missing from most homes today - real art. There are too many purchases made at the Home Goods store because they are inexpensive and match the colors of the room. Van Gogh would cut off his other ear if he observed this trend.

Find your art on ebay, at estate sales and small galleries. Just make the purchase personal. Frame your kid's finger painting. Take a water color or pottery class. Bring art into your home, visit museums and be inspired.

My favorite artist and inspiration is John William Waterhouse. His paintings are below. He was a Pre-Raphaelite artist, 1849-1917, who painted powerful women - mythological, saints, witches, mermaids - in a classical yet modern way for the times. Click here for more info.