They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But what about a handcrafted work of art? To me, those don’t just formulate words; it constructs a narrative, a story. But it wasn’t always this way for me. For a long time, I never truly appreciated art and the amount of meticulous work required to create a masterpiece. I will forever be thankful for the art appreciation and creative art classes I took in college. In these classes I got to study art history as well as trying my hand at painting. Of course, I will never be as great as the masters, but I learned that art is a discipline, a science. It not only requires immense dedication, motivation and focus, it also necessitates originality, ingenuity and innovation. A masterpiece doesn’t just happen, it demands training and practice of this carefully balanced equation of both rigidity and creativity. This was the beginning of a growing love affair. I have since had the great privilege of visiting many art museums internationally and have seen many world-famous pieces in the flesh.
The Louvre in Paris, France is probably one of the most well-known art museums in the world, housing some of the world’s greatest pieces of art. Home to the ever-famous Mona Lisa, the regal Coronation of Napoleon, the joyous Wedding at Cana, the patriotic Liberty Leading the People, the tragic Raft of Medusa and the alluring Venus de Milo.
If you haven’t been to the Louvre and plan to someday, I would highly recommend you familiarize yourself with its extensive archives. The Louvre has their own website with several different features to help you best plan out your visit such an interactive floor plans, a list of the cultural departments available, visitor tips and other useful information. I wish I had done my research prior to going, this museum is quite large and has eight different cultural departments accompanied by gardens, events and exhibitions. For those of you like me who love to be in the presence of such historical masterpieces, I would recommend carving out a day to roam about the museum. But for those of you who are on a bit of time crunch and want to see the big “ticket items” I would encourage you to do your research beforehand and create your own “road map”. There are audio guides available in all kinds of languages, all you do is type in the number posted next to the work of art and it will give you a brief, yet informative, excerpt of that piece. Tour guides are also available for you, should you choose to have someone guide you and answer any questions you may have. My experience at the Louvre was one I will not easily forget; it was a joy and a privilege to be standing in the midst of our world’s history over the centuries.
South of Paris in the Provence region of southern France, is the quaint city of Arles. This city rests along the Rhône River and is quite picturesque with its radiant sunshine and vibrant colors. It is no wonder Dutch painter; Vincent van Gogh used such a backdrop as the subject of many of his famous paintings. His new-found inspiration in Arles provided us with some of his most distinguished works including, The Langlois Bridge, Arles at Night, The Cafe at Night, Place duForum, The Sunflowers, A Wheat Field with Cypresses, The Man with the Severed Ear and The Courtyard of the Hospital in Arles.
A Wheat Field with Cypresses, Vincent Van Gogh
Within this rustic and rural city, the modern two-story gallery, Foundation Vincent Van Gogh Arles, stands in stark contrast. This small yet extensive archive is home to many of Van Gogh’s most well-known paintings. His excellent use of bright and vibrant colors brings a sense of warmth and happiness to its onlookers. This is a small-scale in comparison to the other museums mentioned here, there are no audio or tour guides available, you are on your own to admire Van Gogh without interruption. Being in the places where Van Gogh walked is quite extraordinary. You can visit the famous Yellow Café for a bite to eat or take a stroll through the hospital courtyard where he was a patient after cutting off his own ear. The city itself is quite enchanting and provides many opportunities to trace back through history.
The smallest country in the world, Vatican City, is the residence of arguably some of the most famous frescos of all time, The Sistine Chapel’s The Last Judgement and The Nine Scenes from the Book of Genesis. Just west of Rome, the historically rich Vatican Museum contains various departments, rooms, halls, villas and gardens available for public viewing. The Vatican Museum also has an official website with an online catalogue, the collections and departments available as well as virtual tours of their most popular attractions in the museum. This is a very useful tool for those wanting to visit. Similar to the Louvre, I would recommend doing your homework prior to visiting. Decide if you would like a guided tour or explore on your own, choose the things or places that you want to see; it’s a very large museum and can be overwhelming if you aren’t prepared! Allow yourself several hours here, if not a day, there is much to see and I promise, you won’t want to miss a thing. Whatever you do, you absolutely cannot miss the Sistine Chapel. The ceiling fresco is incredibly captivating, even mesmerizing with Michelangelo’s use of brilliant colors to create bold and dramatic Biblical scenes. Just next to the world’s once greatest nation of Rome, the epicenter of the Catholic religion rests in the small independent country of The Vatican City. Rich in culture and history, this museum transports you back to a different time.
I have considered myself fortunate to have had the pleasure of being “up close and personal” with such historically and culturally significant places that have the ability to transport you from century to century through art. Every piece has a story and tells a story. And each piece tells a different story to each of its admirers. That’s what I love about art, it’s subjective; it can resonate differently and elicit an array of emotions specific to each person. Even though our world is moving quickly towards the future, art has a way of pulling us back; forcing us to remember our past, where we came from and the great minds that forged the way.
And that’s the dirt!