A Moment in History

A few days ago two friends and I took a little road trip to The Clark, an art museum in Williamstown, MA.

Road trip aside (which are always fun), I love art museums. I enjoy taking my time walking around to the different pieces of art. I like standing in front of each painting, reading the little card next to it and studying the brush strokes as much as the painting itself.

On display were works by artists I already loved, such as Monet and Renoir. There were paintings by those I had never heard of and those who seemed vaguely familiar. And there were those I found and fell in love with, such as Inness and Homer.

So what was it about theses artists that captured my attention?

Claude Monet, a French artist, is said to be a founder of Impressionist painting. Simply put, I have always found his work beautiful. When looking at one his paintings, I almost believe I could step right into it and become part of the image.

Pierrie-Auguste Renoir was a French painter who is said to have been the leading artist in the Impressionist style. Since I first saw Dance at Bougival a number of years ago (probably when I was in high school), I have loved his work. For me, seeing it in person was both a treat and an experience. The people in his paintings seem very much alive and ready to step off the canvas. There were a number of times when I thought how much emotion was expressed in their eyes and I found myself lost in them. Even his non-portrait paintings have a distinct beauty.

George Inness, American landscape painter, was influenced by those at the Hudson River school, the Barbizon school and the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg. The spiritualism of this theology can be vividly seen in Inness’ work as it matured. The lighting and realism of his work was gorgeous, at least in my opinion. I found myself able to stare at one his paintings for a very long time, feeling as if I could walk right into it.

Winslow Homer was a 19th century American landscape painter best known for his marine subjects. His work is absolutely beautiful and my love of the ocean made me immediately fall in love with these paintings.

While I was looking at these paintings, both by the artists mentioned here and the others I didn’t note, I was struck with a rather interesting thought. At one point in history the artist set up an easel and placed a canvas on it. He gathered up some paint and brushes and set to work on making what he saw with his own eyes come to life on the white canvas. These paintings capture a moment in time, people, a culture, a society. And long after the artist is gone, long after I am gone, these works of art will still exist for people to marvel.

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