I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art today and saw the Picasso and the Avant-Garde in Paris exhibit and I now have a new and utterly profound respect for the Cubist Art Movement. Previously, I liked the art form but I was not in love with it. I am a lover of nature; show me a Turner, Moran or a Constable and I am in heaven. But Cubism, though interesting, was just not all that fascinating to me. I never “got it”. Until today. Walking through that exhibit I finally understood the concept of this wonderful and energetic movement, it’s ability to take the average and make it exciting, forcing the viewer to experience this world in a different and, in my opinion, wonderful way. I know now why these innovative artists hold a very important place in art history. I learned today that what might seem boring and mundane can be shattered and remade. What may have been plain and uninteresting before I now know can be dissected, and a work of art can be created by eliminating my preconceived ideas of what reality and beauty look like.
Why did it take me so long to see it? Maybe viewing the actual artwork in all of its glory helped or maybe as an artist who is continuously expanding her art education, I wasn’t ready to understand it before now. Strangely, it wasn't even a Picasso piece that enlightened me. It was Gris. Juan Gris to be exact and believe me I want to be exact because standing in front of his painting “Still Life Before an Open Window. Ravignan” was a very strange experience. My first thought was (exactly what I always thought when looking at anything abstract, including cubism) -“Hmmmm. Interesting”, while walking away. And then I stopped, backed up and really looked at it. And there it was. For some reason Gris was able to communicate to me through his canvas and finally I understood Cubism.
The painting I am speaking of is below. Is it pretty? Well, quite honestly, I don’t think so. Does it have a stunning color palette? Again, no, I don’t think so. But, for me, it is now one of my favorite works of art. I will tell you what I saw when I looked at this painting and why I like it so much.
The trees above framing the top half of the composition gives me the impression of being enclosed as if Gris was looking out of a window. I then saw what looked like a balcony with a table in front. I saw the writing which made me think it was a newspaper on the table and I also saw what looked like a cup. I imagined Gris sitting at his balcony deciding to share the view of his world at that moment but on HIS terms. Through Cubism.
Juan Gris, Spanish
1887 - 1927
Currently on exhibit here
Everyone has different taste. Maybe you don’t like this painting and believe me, I respect that. But I would ask that you use my story as an example to please keep an open mind when experiencing new things or, like me in this case, try looking at the previous in a different way and you may notice something you hadn’t seen before. And just in case you don’t know, this advice does not apply only to art.
If I could talk to Juan Gris today, I would say thank you! Thank you for taking me on a magical journey and allowing me to see the world through your eyes if only for a moment.
To learn more about Juan Gris
To learn more about Cubism
Best Regards, Monica
A huge thank you to Lane Von Herzen, author of "The Unfastened Heart" and the Icon Prize committee for allowing me to be a part of this wonderful project.
Video of Black and White Photographs
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