history. We went to The Getty last week… And by we, I mean Derrick, Haris, Aunt Moni, and my cousin, Bryce. I always knew museums were quiet, but you notice the silence more when you have an infant, who at any moment could disrupt that quiet. So in a sense I walked in checking the layout in case we needed to make a quick exit; however, to my surprise she was engaged with the 18th century paintings, artifacts from the past, and photographs etc. We were all absorbed in the history and clues that human beings left behind for us.
It seems obvious and I don’t know why I hadn’t thought about it before, but during the 18th century European rulers asked artists to capture history. What a great idea and how unique! That’s what art is, a snapshot of the current culture. Artists are the original cameras, and filters.
These paintings were massive, beautiful in shading and lighting, and extremely detailed. When I first see a painting, I can almost take it for granted, maybe I’m not alone in this undervaluing the work that went into it, especially when we can take several photos in seconds . . . but considering how they obtained the paint (who knows how long it took to make), that the painting took longer than a day to do, that they were working from memory, and perhaps all of that on top of a survival job, but they did it. They captured a moment that would not only please the king, but speak to future generations as well, and aren’t we all thankful for their work. Why do we go to museums? We crave to learn and to know more about us, our world, to see these bits of time that we didn’t exist in, to see how life could’ve been etc., to perhaps know and learn more about ourselves.
And even if I’m not aware of all of the work it took to create the painting, I have always been silenced by the work, and they leave lasting impressions in my memory in a way that outlasts Instagram photos.
What sparked this post was that even our 3 month old daughter had respect for these works of art and was in awe. She only seemed to be concerned with one other thing, hunger, and once she was fed, she was back to absorbing the history.
The only question I have from the artist is – was the painting done to the rulers’ liking or to the truth of the moment . . . maybe their lives were on the line . . . my hope is that it was the complete truth of the moment, which even then is filtered through the artist of what the truth is. I hope all of our art is for the truth, not to what’s politically correct or socially desired. Maybe what we get more often is an honest perspective of that moment.
“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” – Ecclesiastes 3:11
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;” – Romans 12:6
“He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer.” – Exodus 35:35
Photo: The Regatta on the Grand Canal in Honor of King Frederick IV, King of Denmark, 1711, Luca Carlevarijs, oil on canvas. The J. Paul Getty Museum.