Stand quietly before them
“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?