Art Appreciation

Picasso’s Harlequin with Violin

We had a rare opportunity today. There is an exhibit at our local Museum of Fine Arts, “Monet to Picasso”. It’s a collection of masterpieces, works by Monet, Picasso, Degas, van Gogh, Dali, Rodin and Renoir. An amazing blessing to be able to see them, these beautiful creations! Awe inspiring, humbling, fantastic.

We were given a headset, to listen to information about the works. Trailing three children, I wasn’t sure what to expect. How do you convey to a child the meaning of seeing these paintings, these sculptures, these pieces of history? How do you explain the importance of these works, the place in history their creators hold? How these pieces, this paint on canvas, changed the world of art, and in their own way they changed how we see the world? I was unsure if they would understand, and concerned about how Youngest would handle herself. There were sturdy police guards in every room, there were guard rails around each painting, there was hushed appreciation filling the museum.

I was surprised.

The older two children listened and looked. Youngest absorbed. She looked carefully at each painting, she noted the colors, she saw the brush strokes. As older siblings fidgeted, ready to move on, she listened….headset to ear, sitting on the floor and gazing up at the paintings. She pointed out shapes, shades, shadows. She felt the tone and mood of the artwork. I saw the artist in her come alive as the works of Masters spoke to her from gilded frames.

Picasso spoke the loudest, to all three children. They studied the paintings from his earlier days, realistic in color and style. They discussed the work from Picasso’s Blue Period, the realism of half the figures, though rendered only in shades and shadows of blue. Some figures became sketches and free forms, eluding the confines of realism and moving towards a new way of seeing the world. Then came paintings that spoke with shapes, dancing and flirting, alluding to their meaning without coming out and stating it directly. Older two drifted away, talked about the work in blue. Youngest sat at the foot of a huge cubist Picasso, Harlequin with Violin.

Headset to ear. she listened intently to the description of the work while staring upward at its muted colors. I watched her, started to bring the headset to my ear as well, but let it drop. Let her tell me about this one.

I knelt beside her, waiting. “What about this painting?” I asked. And she told.

She told of the shapes within, triangles dancing with circles and bumping squares. Diamonds repeated over and over. She told of the colors, muted in some places and bright in others. In halting, child-accented speech she pointed out the swirls of the violin, contrasted to the cubist angles. “He has two faces,” she said. “One is looking forward, the other one away”. I won’t ever know what the docent on the headset said about Picasso’s Harlequin with Violin. But the appreciation in this five year old voice said much more about Picasso’s mastery of paint and shape and color than any academic ever could.

What about the works of these masters, these creators of fine art, speaks so poignantly to our hearts? Is it their fresh outlook on the world, the fact that in each ornate frame is a frozen moment of what another human being sees? How they experience the world? Is it the glimpse of another being’s creativity, the fleeting, overwhelming knowledge that every eye sees the same world with a slightly different tint, hue, and angle? The awe inspiring talent that these masters were so clearly graced with? The humbling knowledge that we ourselves cannot begin to comprehend what it feels like to pick up a brush, a stick of charcoal, a chisel….and see the picture in our mind come to fruition?

A moment kneeling on the floor of the art museum, gazing upward…I look at the child by my side, the two who stand contemplating artwork behind me. I realize that perhaps what tugs so dearly at our hearts is the echo of the Master, the wonder of the Creator of all. To take from nothing and paint in strokes both broad and minute all this….all this beauty. To weave in time and space and motion, to carve in flesh and blood and breath, to paint in sound and touch and smell….how awe inspiring how humbling the thought! And these small echos, these creations hanging on museum walls, they whisper a tiny breath of what he shouts. There is beauty here. Embrace it, breath it in. The work of the Master.

Appreciate it! Appreciate it.

Years ago another master of his craft sat, perhaps beneath the shade of a date tree, and cradled his instrument. As he played, he wove a prayer of thanksgiving and praise with words and lifted his voice high to the Master of all beauty. King David wrote….

Psalm 8:3-4
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Lord, you are the Master. Let me not fail to fall on my knees in awe of your creation, of your love for me!

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