Art enriches you

Amal Chatterjee
10 min readSep 27, 2018

Source: Google photo of the painting of Mona Lisa by Da Vinci in Louvre.

Synopsis : There is so much beauty in the art world that many are not even aware of . Those who are very fortunate get to see the paintings of the famous artists in various museums or renowned art galleries.The vast majority of mankind lives in a state of stupor that they can’t wake up from because they have other priorities in their lives that are more pressing. The blog looks at how art can open up the mind of a person and enlarge it with beauty and knowledge that makes a person more aware of all the human talents and possibilities.

In my home town there is a small museum that I have visited many times. It has a motley collection of paintings, sculptures they have found in the excavation of an ancient historical site near our city and a lot of coins, potteries and memorabilia of some prominent families. They have tons of things to display but are kept in storage due to lack of space. I always enjoyed visiting the museum and looked at its exhibits with interest to learn about their origin and history.

There were some wild animals like cheetah and jaguar that were kept in cages nearby that we as kids really liked to look at . The museum is located in the huge central park that covers hundreds of hectares and is a pleasant place in the heart of a busy city. Never in my early life I could have imagined that someday I will look at Mona Lisa in Louvre or the Rembrandt and Renoir paintings in the Musee de Conde in Chantilly.

Source : Google photo of sculptures in the Borghese museum in Rome

One day I was in Rome and went to see the museum at the Borghese palace and was awestruck by the sheer beauty of a sculpture in marble that was so perfect and polished that you could not find a fault in it even under microscope. It literally glowed in the natural light and showed what human hand could accomplish with primitive tools centuries ago .I have seen such displays in many museums around the world and am very impressed . Some artists and sculptors were extraordinarily talented like Michel angelo, Rodin , Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Renoir, De la Croix, Goya, Da Vinci among many others .

I have made power points ( see them here)to highlight their art and have put them in the internet so take a look there if you are interested . It is a very rich treasure trove of paintings of European masters, Australian masters, Native Australian artists, Indian artists, Japanese art and craft, African art and craft, Chinese art and craft, wildlife of Africa, India and birds of India, crafts of Europe , History of Egypt, China and India and many more.

What got me write this blog is the realization that art has played a huge role in my life and has given me the opportunity to see beauty in the dazzling displays in various museums that I was so fortunate to be able to visit in many countries. It has opened the world of knowledge to me in a way not possible by just reading a book or a magazine.

Source : Google photo of Pieta at the Vatican in Rome

I saw the picture of Pieta long before I actually saw it in the Vatican but nothing prepared me for the actual Pieta that Michelangelo carved out of a huge marble rock centuries ago with such perfection that it takes your breath away. Every vein and muscle in the hand of Jesus glows under the thin skin and there is an ethereal beauty in the face of Madonna that you have to see to believe.

Now a days the computer guided chisels can sculpt anything to near perfection in any kind of stone so it seems so easy. If you put a fake name to it, no one will know the difference except perhaps the experts but ordinary people who are no experts can be easily fooled. You can see the exact replica of the statue of David in the square in front of the museum in Florence and will never know it is not the original until you see the real one inside the museum.

The art I saw in Louvre and Borghese palace were real and made by real artists long dead but still influence the art world that dazzle your mind with their beauty and perfection. Michelangelo would have scorned anything sculpted by machines if such machines were available during his time. He saw Pieta hidden in the rough block of marble and simply unveiled her but that was his genius. Not many people can do it so he became a legend.

Sadly art is not appreciated by the hoi polloi who have other things on their mind than art like struggle for their existence. They do not care about art and will tell you that they have never heard of Michelangelo , Louvre and Borghese museums. Their priorities are very different from yours so it makes no difference to them even if they see Mona Lisa for the first time if they are so lucky.

Millions of grass root people can never afford to travel abroad to see the art or even within their own country so they remain aloof to the world of knowledge that art opens up for anyone who cares to learn. One Filipino woman we met in Siem Reap said that she did not care to see the temples of Angkor Wat because they were heathen and represented something contrary to her faith and belief. The ISIS terrorists say the same thing and go one step further by taking a hammer and proceed to destroy them. Another woman said that visiting temples or reading books proscribed by her church might dilute her faith. This narrow outlook has been the bane of human existence.

I saw that the nose of Pieta in Vatican was broken by a fanatic who did not like the idea of young Madonna with her full grown son on her lap and tried to smash it. Now the nose has been repaired and the statue is protected by a bulletproof glass.

All over the world you will meet people who show no appreciation of what I call the beauty created by the human hand and go on tours to visit other countries in package tours of 3 days and 4 nights just to see what they can buy cheaply there. The vendors take full advantage of their stupidity and ignorance and sell them fake Gucci bags for twenty dollars that they happily bring back as souvenirs. Mind you these people are not the grass root people because they can afford to travel abroad even if in package tours and have some education but absolutely no knowledge of art and they don’t care.

But art does open up the mind in a person in a very positive way that can have an everlasting influence on your life. You do not have to be an artist to appreciate art anywhere but you can develop a taste for it. You buy imitation paintings to hang in your house and you collect art objects to fill up your shelves at home. I have collected many such things from around the world that decorate our walls and shelves but our maid is totally indifferent to them and has never shown any curiosity. Her priorities are very different. She also has no knowledge of the history and the outer world because her world is very limited to food and cheap cosmetics, Chinese knock off gadgets and weekend parties somewhere. In essence she represents the vast majority of the population here.

I often wonder why most poor people are so immune to things of beauty because I thought that any beautiful painting or work of art would naturally evoke a curiosity and appreciation in anyone irrespective of social class but I was wrong.

It is true that like everything else in life one has to learn to appreciate something from the childhood be it food or clothes or art or music. You can’t drag a kid to the museum somewhere and expect him to appreciate what he sees there. I know this because I too brought our kids to the Anthropological museum in Mexico City and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C but they were bored. They only enjoyed the Air and Space museum and the Bronx zoo but they just looked at Rodin sculptures with indifference.

There was an experiment where a baby song bird was separated from its parents and raised in isolation. It never learned to sing because the chicks learn to sing from their parents. This analogy also applies to us humans. We learn many things from our parents that later becomes a part of our nature. If the parents read a lot and buy books for their children to read, some of them may develop the reading habit and become curious about the world of knowledge.

I know for a fact that the son of a famous artist and singer in India became a very good singer and has come out with his own CDs. The father of Satyajit Ray was a famous artist who also wrote the famous children’s nursery rhymes book. I do not need to tell you who Satyajit Ray was. So the parents play a role in the development of the interest in art in their children and bring them to art galleries, museums and other places.

So one has to create the atmosphere where the child grows up and learns about music, art, performing arts like ballet, dance or drama acting. When the child is deprived of this nurturing atmosphere at home, he does not develop any interest in such things. Some children are born with talent for music or playing musical instruments that their parents encourage but they are called prodigies and are rare. I have written a blog about child prodigies that you should look at.

But the vast majority of people in this world do not have the money to buy books or buy a guitar for their children and pay for the lessons because they have other pressing needs that must be met first.

Some poor children who are naturally gifted are sometimes noticed by their teachers in their schools who then recommend them to a good music school that may offer scholarship or an art school where they teach how to paint but they are the lucky ones.

The world of art is vast and the artists who fill it are numerous. I am not writing about those people who sit by the canals in Venice with charcoal and draw a quick something for money for you. They are just trying to make a living the only way they know how but they are perhaps at the bottom of the art world.

The artists who became famous only after their death are numerous and their life was sad and pitiful who struggled to make their ends meet but now their paintings sell for millions of dollars. If they had earned as much then their life would have been not so pitiful. Van Gogh became mad and once cut off his own ear in a fit of despair. No one at first took Picasso seriously until his painting started to sell for millions and he became super rich but people say that he also became an unstable person.

Michel Angelo suffered pain and almost became blind painting the Sistine chapel in Vatican hanging upside down to paint the ceiling for small sums of money. The movie Agony and ecstasy ( watch it here)is worth watching that shows his sufferings.

I think art helps a person develop very fine taste of things in life but it is a taste that does not cost a lot of money . It opens up the mind of a person and fills it with dazzling beauty that makes him a better person although not always. Hitler was a great artist but we all know who he became. Some of his associates were artists and musicians or great collectors of art but they were monsters.

What I think happens is that the art makes a person aware for the first time in his life of the extraordinary talents some people have who have left their mark in this world . A person begins to realize the potential of human talent that expresses itself through art, music and various other means. It may even make him try his hand at something that interests him. I see numerous examples of art by unknown persons published almost daily in Google plus that are nothing short of wonderful.

I can never overstate the merits of learning to appreciate art but I also know that each person develops his own personality due to the circumstances he grows up in and may or may not be able to absorb all that is beautiful in this world .

You may never get to see Mona Lisa or Pieta in your life but the next generation may. I know that my parents never got to see it but I did and wish they were alive so that I could bring them to the Louvre. When you see something beautiful , you always wish you could show it to your loved ones too.

Let art enrich your soul and of your loved ones.

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