Posts Tagged ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’

Some years ago at the Art Institute of Chicago I was walking towards gallery 240, just behind a woman and two well-dressed, well-behaved children who were about six and eight years old.  The woman might have been their mom or an aunt.  She bent down to them and said, “And now we’re going to look at Pointillism.”

I was immediately upset and wanted to say something to the woman. But I didn’t know what to say and lingered in that gallery hoping I could handle this gracefully.

Next time I’ll just say discretely but firmly, “Don’t say that to a child.”

Or anybody.

When you go to a gallery or art museum allow yourself to be ignorant.  Ok, how about unknowing.

Even if you go twice a month, enter the building with no expectations. Wander around as if you were illiterate and had never heard of any ism in art history. Let your jaw drop and your mind go non-verbal.

This takes practice.  It’s not easy to be…ignorant…unknowing.

Ignorance is the precondition for astonishment.

Please, let’s all be erudite, elegant and articulate.  But not so fast.  Not when we’re six. Or even sixteen.  Or however old you are when you start looking at art.  You should be allowed, or allow yourself, to look and react with your gut feeling.  Ooh, ahh, yukk, eech, meh, whatever.

But you keep going back and keep looking.  You will inevitably learn a few things about art history. But what’s most fascinating is that you learn something about yourself:  how you react, how you see, how you think and feel.

I pulled the above photo from the internet.  I love it because it shows people really looking.  Whether they’re seeing this for the first time or coming back every week to study Seurat’s technique, they are astonished.

There’s a lot of self-knowledge in the capacity to be astonished.

Georges Seurat, 1859-1891

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,  painted 1884–1886


All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.





Read Full Post »