Stand quietly before them

The statues of the six continents at the Esplanade du Musée d'Orsay, Paris, September 2005

The statues of the six continents at the Esplanade du Musée d’Orsay, Paris, September 2005

“We should comport ourselves with the masterpieces of art as with exalted personages– stand quietly before them and wait till they speak to us.”
Arthur Schopenhauer

Whenever I visit an art gallery or museum, especially a large one such as my favorite, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, I’m torn between wanting to rush through and see it all, or take the time to really study and enjoy just a few works.  Since time is always limited when travelling far from home, I usually end up doing a bit of both, promising myself I’ll come back someday and spend more time there.

In this, as in so many other areas, we are tremendously fortunate to live in the digital age, when we can call up precise and detailed photographs of virtually every work in every museum with a website, as well as many privately held collections and lesser-known works of art shared online by their creators.  While such works inevitably lose much in translation to two-dimensional images, we still have the chance to grow familiar with them and appreciate them from a distance, rendered in amazing detail that enables zooming in and studying the minutiae closely.

However, nothing will ever replace being able to see an original work of art, up close and in person.  I hope you will make some time, near your home or on vacation, to enjoy great works in the many places they can be found: indoor collections and galleries, parks, city squares, churches, universities, and private homes.  Next time you pass an intriguing sculpture or eye-catching painting, take a few minutes to stand quietly and listen.  What do you hear?


  1. thank you, amiga. it’s always great to have a supporter of the arts!

    • I cannot imagine life without the arts. I love the Picasso quote about how it washes away the dust of life. Jeff and I decided long ago for our home we wanted to buy only original works or at least signed prints (and since we have a very limited budget, they are mostly bought from craft shows and such places, although a couple are from the juried Laguna Beach art festival). We have a very few exceptions to this rule, but even with Pissarro, at least I saw the totally stunning original before I bought and framed the print. I love creative people, it is so refreshing to be around them!

      • you are such an artist as well, and i suspect that drawing would give you amazing pleasure! your photos are always lovely!

        • Wow, thanks. I used to try to paint with oils when I was a kid (my Daddy sometimes painted, and let me play with his art supplies) but no one ever encouraged me to keep it up 🙂 although that didn’t stop me where the camera is concerned!

  2. Sheila

    Julia, I love the idea of buying and framing the print of an exquisite original that you loved. You are quite the artistic gal to me. I hope that all is going well with your scheduled appointments this week. I have kept y’all in my thoughts and prayers. Sheila

    • Hi Sheila, thanks so much for your kind words and support. We have had a very good week so far; I will try to send a quick email to catch up. We feel very thankful tonight. Thanks for being here!

  3. Eric

    I would reply, “Well, my favorite is Museo Nacional del Prado.” But if I did so I would remind myself of my little brother when, in1965, he said: “We go to Jekyll Island almost every year.” (we had visited there once, but as his boast suggests, it was a very enjoyable experience)

    • Ah, but one can have a favorite after only one visit, or two (I’ve only been to my favorite twice, although I hope to go back many times). After all, one does not need to see a movie repeatedly for it to be a favorite, either. Museums are among those places that are seldom a high priority in the urgency of life, and I cannot immediately think of any art museum I’ve seen more than two or three times, unless I count consecutive-day trips to the Louvre. If one is familiar with the museum through a book featuring color plates of paintings found in that collection (such as the volume from the British Museum Al and I used to look at for hours) then even the very first visit feels like a sort of homecoming. I can easily imagine someone claiming the Prado as a favorite after only one visit.


  1. Museums, formed from the heart | Defeat Despair

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