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Not long ago, Robert Genn, of the Twice Weekly Art Letters, wrote about something I had never heard of before. As I read the description, I felt I had an experience related to what he was describing.
Recently, the Denver Art Museum had an outstanding exhibit called "Becoming Van Gogh" which I was privileged to see not only once, but twice. The first time I saw it, I was with a couple of real art afficionados. One lady was an art historian, and the other, an accomplished artist. In the middle of seeing the exhibit, the art historian challenged us to be able to name our favorite painting and also state why it was our favorite painting.
After her request, I got a little nervous. I was thrilled to be at such a wonderful exhibit, and I was drinking it all in, but then the pressure was on!
As we were nearing the end of the exhibit, I thought I finally had my favorite picked. Then, we all turned a corner together, and each started looking at a different painting. I was looking at a landscape that had huge billowing clouds in it.
All of a sudden, I softly gasped, but it was enough to garner their attention. I was so absorbed in the painting, that I did not realize they were observing me. The longer I looked at the painting, the more of an effect it had on me, and tears started rolling down my cheeks. The art historian asked me if I knew anything about that particular piece. I told her no, that I hadn't even read the plaque that accompanied it yet. She told me it was one that Van Gogh had painted while he was in his cell at the asylum. Wow. The only reason I could think of that would have caused me to have such a reaction was that, somehow, the emotion of what he was feeling as he painted really came through to me. I finally "got a grip" and was able to see the rest of the exhibit without any further emotional displays.
I bought the book about the exhibit so that I could really learn more about Van Gogh. I was also hoping that a reproduction of the painting that had illicited the response from me would be included. It was, and when I saw the reproduction, once again I welled up with emotion.
I am a 55 year-old woman who has loved art all her life. I started drawing when I was a child of about 8, and I started learning to paint when I was in high school. I've seen a LOT of art, and I've never had an experience like this before.
The second time I went to the exhibit, I was very curious about how I would react when I saw the painting again in person. Upon my first few glances at it, I thought I would be fine. Then, the longer I took it in, I began to feel slightly faint, so I quickly averted my attention elsewhere. I've never fainted before, and I didn't want to faint in the Denver Art Museum. I don't know why this particular painting has such an effect on me. The name of the piece is Landscape from Saint-Remy, 1889. It wasn't even my favorite Van Gogh piece from the exhibit!
So, thanks to the dear art author, Robert Genn, I was happy to learn that I was not the only person affected by art in strange ways. I even learned there was a name for it. And, even though a friend recently gave me a lovely, artsy beret with the French saying, tete de genie, on it--I have come to know that I have a very l-o-n-g way to go to fill that hat... I looked up tete de genie and discovered it meant "head of a genius." Oh, if only that were true! ...as much as I have learned, I still have a long way to go--don't we all?