It wasn’t a very pretty day outside, but indoors we took a trip into the past in more ways than one. The works of art, mostly from times gone bye gave us pause. So did the architecture and opulence of this lovely 1912 building.
Many people know the Toledo Art Musem as the home of this image by Cole, one of the works that the museum thinks epitomize it’s collection but to be honest I was in a bit of a private-appreciation-zone during our visit that had nothing to do with their most cherished pieces.
Yes, I do enjoy things like the realistic masters and I do love the intricasies of fine work. But to be truthful, I found myself on this visit paying more attention to certain details, and to the intricasies of the frames than I did to the overall pieces of art.
Because I don’t paint or draw I sometimes find myself looking at the BIG picture more than at the details. I have a special appreciation for the Impressionists and those who followed the eras of hyper-realisitic painting (as you will know there are numerous such movements) because I find it fascinating the way the human brain will fashion intelligent understanding from what appear to be random dots and points of paint. This ability to synthesize meaning from apparent randomness is a big part of how I look at life. So, on this visit I found myself looking carefully at the smallest figures within the paintings to see how carefully, or how slipshod the details were portrayed.
I was also intrigued by the portrait expressions and the inlaid humor at the expense of the model/subject. Artists (seem by nature) to be rebels who delight in pointing out the foibles of their subjects — whether or not the subject is aware of their inside jokes. Sometimes the added time involved to look at the fine details within the image and reflect on the times in which the painting was created help to realize that a painting says much more than your eye takes in by way of general impression. Would a woman of that day be dressed quite so showily in public? Would she hold the gaze of a stranger quite so steadily? And what of that cigar butt on the stairs? Who might it have been who recently departed that place? And of course, a guide who isn’t being used has time to stare off into the distance.
Anyone who uses a camera has to be fascinated by the way painters capture light. Light is always the key to any image — without it all you have is a black page. But different artists at different times of day capture illumination so differently. It’s said that Monet often carried dozens of canvasses out to the field where he was painting — each one for a certain time of day — so that he could exactly capture the effect of sun on a scene at a specific “moment” as it were. The ability using paints to capture light is to me a great miracle. I know how long I played with studio lighting to get just the right photographic image, but to do that same thing using pigments just astounds me.
Another part of my reason for wanting to see the museum now, even though I have unsuccessfully attempted to get here on other occasions is a temporary display on glass art by contemporary women — just a few examples of which I share above.
We have a friend (one of the rangers at Highland Ridge where we camphosted) who does glass blowing, so it’s an area of interest. The Toledo Art Museum offers glass blowing demonstrations (on a changing schedule) so we also wanted to take in one of the demos — which was really a wonderful experience. There only happened to be four of us watching the demo so it was almost a private tutorial which we could interupt with questions and comments. I really enjoyed it.
We had some thought to returning a second day but a sudden change in the forecast and the addition of snow across Northern Indiana suggested that maybe we head back to Milwaukee. Still, we had a lovely visit in Peg’s old home town; we accomplished what we went there to do, and we avoided driving in bad weather. That last point — driving in bad weather — we’re still a bit cautious about seeing as we have not had snow or ice to drive in for 6 years. I’m sure our skills haven’t deteriorated all that much but hey, why do it any sooner than we have to? 🙂