It’s about a year since I went to the Musee d’Orsay… at that time I bought the guide-book and read it cover to cover.
So everything, this time, had meaning!
We just viewed the Impressionists and what was really interesting having read the guide-book and progressed through this course… the thing that struck me really forcibly (unlike last time when I thought they were more real than real!) was how visually unreal they are. And how much detail they miss out.
They truly seemed an ‘impression’.
But not an impression in the sense of what we ‘see’… but an impression in the sense of actually being on the spot… as if in a waking dream – giving you just enough visual information to allow to drift away. So you see the scene with your whole body, not just your eyes, and the painting becomes a doorway rather than the room itself.
So, psychologically and emotionally, it’s more real than any photograph or realist painting. They visually mimic the detail of reality. However, because you know they aren’t real you stand outside, isolate your eyes, and look in to ‘read’ the image. For me a photograph is ‘reportage’ not ‘art’.
Two other things struck me this time.
How they were made by specific people at a specific moment in time. Knowing the stories of the artists and just how revolutionary they were and what a struggle it was to get gallery space and patronage. And the whole social sub structure and stories that surround the paintings. The interaction of history and art… with changing artistic conventions… how markets affect production… how there is a struggle for hegemony between the old and new art. All gave a new me a deeper connection with the paintings.
Not wondrous (though they are!) multi million pound artefacts to ‘awe’ at, but real canvases painted by real artists with real bills to pay! The knowledge humanised them and made them real. It allowed me to value them not in the eyes of others and by repute but as if they’d just been painted.
And finally how, once you reach a certain level like Degas or Monet, not only do the paintings lift you to that moment but they also have a personality and a voice. This is much more than stylistic variations. It’s like being with another person. It’s a bit weird to try to explain…
It’s as if, in some strange way you, are not only entering the moment but also the artist themselves. It’s a kind of emotional link… a presence apart from the image.
A lovely museum and a lovely city and one I could happily spend a whole week visiting!!!!