If one contemplates all the art and architecture in Paris, it is too overwhelming. The Louvre itself is overwhelming and simply cannot be visited meaningly in one day. Yet, that is what many people do, and in the process where to they go? The Mona Lisa bien sur, and they take their photos to document the pilgrimage, often missing the majesty on the opposite wall, the side walls, or in the current configuration of Salle 6, behind the wall.
It reminds me of thinking about the poor sap who did the floor of the Sistine Chapel. One of my kids asked, “why is that one painting so famous.” And while I tried to give a meaningful answer about enigmatic smiles and chiaroscuro, I’ve asked the question myself many times. And when one experiences the myriad other works of art that exhibit similar feats of technique, majesty, allure, et je ne sais quoi, one wonders at memes, icons, clichés, canons, and the eclipsing power of fame.
The power of art is in the epiphany, for a person or a people. It can be transcendent or trendy, elegant or elusive, distinguished or disturbing, and I’ve learned that the more I like, the greater my net wealth. I like the title of a book by actor Vincent Price (who, when not acting in scary movies, was a great art connoisseur) “I Like What I Know,” an obvious twist on the ignorati phrase “I know what I like.” But I’ll admit, I often don’t know why I like something. Is it the composition, the color, the content? Is it the era, the artist, the effort, the idea? Whether the medium or the message or both, it is a joy to learn, to look, and to have those “aaahhh” moments…
Nonetheless, museum tramping is not for the weak. The walking, the standing, the reading, the occasional jostling for perspective, and of course the mental exercise of seeing can be exhausting. Add to that the explaining of lighting, brushstrokes, Biblical tales, context, or especially nakedness to pre-teens who forgot to use the potty or just want to sit down, well it makes for another kind of “aaahhh” moment.
In any case, here’s a little slideshow of art in the Louvre that I experienced, however fleetingly, during several hours one day in October 2015. It is of course random and a fraction of the collection in no particular order. What do you like?