Two of my favorite things to do are put my oil paints on canvas and travel. Recently, I’ve been able to do both as part of my work.
I just returned from 3 weeks in London, Amsterdam and Belgium. This is where the art meets the travel. Not only am I collecting images I intend to paint soon but I was in the land of artistic overwhelm. We spent a full day at the Victoria and Albert museum where this one facility alone houses 4.5 million artifacts; paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, jewelry, architecture. The opportunity for inspiration knows no limits. In Amsterdam we visited Rembrandt’s home, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijks Museum.
I was excited to learn that Rembrandt made a very fine living for himself as an artist, teacher and dealer in the 1600’s long before the advent of the internet. This dispels some of the myth that all artists are starving, addicts or crazy. Rembrandt’s home was large and luxurious even by today’s standards. Unfortunately, like so many, his spending kept pace with his income and he suffered some unfortunate investments toward the end of his life. But, his art made money!
Also, in Rembrandt’s home we saw a video that showed the methods used to study a painting to determine if it is authentic or copy. Turns out a painting has a DNA much like a person does.
At the Van Gogh museum you learn that he wasn’t born an artist. He and his brother, Theo, worked for the same art dealer. Van Gogh was an adult before he decided to study art and see if he had any ability. And, he produced all of his work in a ten-year period. The museum is orchestrated so that you see the progression of his work rather than seeing it piece-meal in variety of places or books.
In all of the museums, castle’s and cathedrals you see that art has played a part in people’s lives from our earliest times. In the earliest days the church and the wealthiest families commissioned paintings, sculpture and the decorative arts. Many artists were basically put on a retainer. Often the paintings and sculpture were to commemorate the monarchies, or as political and religious propaganda for the church.
One of my favorite quotes is “Art is power and people with power always have art.” Art was not always intended as something to just decorate the walls and halls with and people didn’t choose it because it matched the sofa. Art made a statement and art was often revolutionary or at least illustrated the revolution.
The amount of art that has been produced since the dawn of human kind is staggering, historical and often beyond comprehension when you know they created such works with often very primitive methods and tools.
Art and travel colliding in my world is enriching it beyond measure. It’s one thing to see these works in photographs. But so much more impressive to stand before it in person in the very spot the artist stood as he worked out his composition. The pieces take on so much more meaning for me as I walk in the footsteps of the artistic giants who forged the path so that I could one day put my oil on a canvas or stand before their works and marvel on a foreign shore.
And what is even more inspiring and comforting is to know their story. To know they questioned themselves every time they picked up a brush. Could they do it? Would they do it? Would it be accepted? Would they be successful? Some were rewarded in their lifetime and others never knew their contribution. But the human part of the struggle for every person seems to be the same no matter your field.