Recently I found myself along with my sons Ben and Andy at the Nelson-Adkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. I was expecting to see perhaps something interesting. Instead I met up with some cherished friends.
I have written here before of the impact that other forms of art have on my spiritual journey. Music. Film. Theater. All have enriched me. But I also find myself moved in a special and unique way when I stand in the presence of certain paintings.
I am not a student of art and find my love of art is emotional, not intellectual. As such, I find myself at times moved to tears by the beauty of certain paintings. There is little that I like about modern art. There is little that I “get” about abstract art. Yet, when encountering the paintings of certain artists, I feel the presence of God. Here are a few works that I love.
I first encountered many of Van Gogh’s self-portraits in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. I have long felt drawn to Van Gogh and tried to understand the anguish reflected in the eyes in these portraits. Perhaps it is as Don McLean sang: “I could have told you, Vincent. This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.”
I first encountered Georges Seurat and A Sunday on La Grande Jette in the musical “Sunday in the Park with George”. While I cared only for Act 1 of the play, I found the conclusion of that act to be very moving as Seurat creates this work. Then I met the painting in Chicago. Its massiveness, its colors, its characters, its painstaking creation with dots of paint rendered me speechless.
No one articulates the loneliness of life in general and big city life in particular like Edward Hopper. I found myself deeply moved by his best-known painting “Nighthawks” when I encountered it the Boston Museum of Art. Its stark lighting and simplicity spoke to loneliness one can feel oneself much less encounter in others over a late night cup of coffee.
Much of Salvador Dali is beyond me. Yet when I first met his “Sacrament of the Last Supper” in the National Art Gallery in Washington DC, I felt like I was in the presence of something holy, much as I might feel when hearing sacred music.
There are other paintings and other artists that have also graced my journey. The best that I can do to express my gratitude is to stand in wonder in the presence of their works.
Reflection: 1. Has your journey been enriched by any paintings? Which ones?