August 10, 2016

9 Works of Art that Move Me

This is a collection of the art that has moved me from the moment I saw it and continues to teach me things about myself and the world. 

I am not an art aficionado (I majored in physical education - the art of sport?). I only started appreciating some art while living in Paris. At the beginning, I only went to museums because I was supposed to, then, I realized, there were certain styles and artists that I was attracted to more than others.

This is not a post about the history of the art itself. I will include the title of the piece, the artist, and where it can be found. 

This is about how these works of art move me.

(Ranked from least to most amazing...but they're all super amazing!)

9. Neptune's Horses by Walter Crane, 1892

Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

Crane's "horse waves" made me see both horses and the ocean in a totally new way. Waves really do rise up with their crest and stampede toward the shoreline. I find the beauty of this painting is in the power and strength it conveys. The one time I've ever been surfing confirms that the ocean does surge with the might of several horses.

8. The Age of Maturity by Camille Claudel, 1902

Musée Rodin, Paris, France

Claudel's tragic sculpture always challenges me to make better decisions. Poor judgment, even in small instances, can gather momentum and lead us down a path where only tragedy awaits us. It also shows me that while romance and passion are important, commitment and loyalty are the ultimate winners in life.

7. Anna Pavlova by John Lavery, 1911

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

I go through museums at a very high speed and am done with most in under two hours. That's why if a piece of art really stops me in my tracks and holds my attention for more than a few minutes, I know I have to figure out why it is important to me. I love the colors in this painting, but the freedom is what really captured me. There's a lightness and happiness to this dancer and I try to feel like I'm skipping in my own beautiful ballerina shoes every time I leave the house.

6. Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, 1665

Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands

The Girl with a Pearl promises a way better staring contest than the Mona Lisa. It's darkness and light, it's poor and rich, and it's young and old - all at the same time. The contrasts in Vermeer's painting are what grabbed me, and I can't help but wonder if the girl is looking back to her youth or forward to her future. Even with the contrasts, there is a genuine softness, and I believe it's the peace every single one of us can find in a true pause.

5. Noah's Ark by Aurelio Luini, 1500s

Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore, Milan, Italy

I always find Bible story depictions thoroughly fascinating. Out of a huge and gorgeously painted church, Luini's fresco of an ark that included the unicorns was my favorite. It is easy to put God and the Bible in a box of predictable and contemporary descriptions, but who's to say there weren't any unicorns on the ark? None of us were there! God may not be our version of a genie or wizard, but there's no reason to exclude Him from wonderful ideas.

4. Winged Victory of Samothrace

Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

I love the mystery and motion of Winged Victory. It shows me that civilization has always been roaring with pride in its accomplishments, but none of us can survive humanity. Only the remnants still exist and serve as our attempt to explain those before us. I think about what things in our society that might last two thousand years from now and how the humans who find it will process our current existence. It is wise for us to understand our own insignificance because that is what teaches us to be humble and generous with our fellow man.

3. Les Bourgeois de Calais by Auguste Rodin, 1884-1889

Musée Rodin, Paris, France, and other locations throughout Paris and Calais

Credit: Wikimedia Commons
This is the finest and most intense portrayal of leadership and its many faces. These six men volunteered to die for their city, but they all walk to their death differently. This large sculpture always forces me to ask myself if I would be willing to die for those that I lead, and which of the characters would I be? Would I be the brave or the proud one? The terrified or the sad one? Coming to terms with death is no small task, but death is why our precious lives hold so much value.

2. Wendel Hotel Ballroom by Josep Maria Sert i Badia, 1925

Musée Carnavalet, Paris, France

Credit: Soundlandscapes' Blog
Every time I have stepped into this room inside the Carnavalet, I have to sit and stare. All four walls show humanity in a variety of states, and I have always understood this room as the different ways man tries to reach their version of heaven or happiness. Some seek it through riches, some through work, some through wisdom, but all fall short when relying on their own strength. I am reminded of our human frailty and that faith cannot be bound to human definitions. It is impossible to take a complete picture of this room, but I promise you will want to sit on those benches for a long time the day you walk into it!

1. The Promenade by Marc Chagall, 1917-1918

Albertina, Vienna, Austria 
(normally in The Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia)

All I could think was, "I hope he keeps you grounded and I hope she makes you fly!" This is the most beautiful and joyous depiction of a relationship I have ever seen, and I love it so much that it is the photo on the lock screen of my phone (replacing the Anna Pavlova painting, in fact). I have never liked Cubism, yet this painting is one of my all-time favorites, and it has made my life happier and better everyday.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to live in Europe and for the chance to experience these masterful works of art and incredible museums in my own backyard. I may not be a typical museum junkie, but I deeply appreciate all of the cultural lessons I have now learned because of European history and art. I hope this little tour of inspirational art gives you fresh insight and motivation!

Have you been to these museums and seen any of these pieces? 
What is your favorite work of art and why?