Oh, the joys of art! From sculptures, to oil paintings, to watercolors, to charcoal sketches: all forms teach us about history, emotions, talent and expression. I am no art connoisseur by any means, but I do share an appreciation for art along with many other lovely human beings. This post was inspired by my recent date night at the San Antonio Museum of Art. It is an antiquated building, once home to the Lone Star Brewery, now with a refurbished and modern interior. I love the preservation of historical buildings and I must take my hat off to San Antonio for doing it so well. The current exhibit is Matisse. I had very little exposure to Matisse before this outing, so I enjoyed learning about another world-renowned artist.
Once again, I am no art history buff, but I do appreciate spending hours strolling through art museums wherever I go. Traveling is what sparked my interest in art. I never knew that I enjoyed sculptures so much until I discovered Bernini’s beautiful 360-degree sculptures in The Borghese Gallery in Rome. Many other captivating artists caught my eye during my summer abroad a few years ago. Since then, I have avidly collected art history and sculpture books. They make beautiful coffee table books, but yes, I actually do read them in my spare time. I decided to highlight some works of art that I have felt some sort of connection with. Most of them are world famous, for obvious reasons, but others are less well-known pieces that have resonated with me for one reason or another. So, enjoy my list!
1. Bernini– the art of twisting // circles // 360-degrees
Proserpina: I particularly am drawn to his incredible talent of sculpting flesh. I have never seen another artist that portrays human touch so realistically. Somehow, the durability and hard nature of stone transforms into soft flesh.
Apollo and Daphne: This sculpture highlights the story of unrequited love. Daphne asks her father to change her form in order to escape Apollo’s love. She transforms from a river nymph to a tree. “Nothing of her was left except her shining loveliness.”
2. Botticelli– mythology // seasons
The Birth of Venus: After her creation, Venus is blown along by the winds, Zephyr and Aura, who lifted her shell from the bottom of the sea. Upon birth, her modesty flourishes seen with her stance. The Graces will cover her nudity with the cape.
3. Michelangelo– classic // Sistine Chapel // biblical
The Creation of Adam: Forming part of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, this fresco depicts the creation narrative of the Book of Genesis in which God breathes life to Adam, the first man. The spark of life flows from God’s finger to Adam’s. Their poses are mirror images of each other, representing man’s creation in God’s image.
4. Paolo Veronese- vibrant // color // fiesta
Wedding at Cana: The largest painting in the Louvre in Paris. It depicts the New Testament story of when Jesus and his disciples went to the wedding feast in Cana. When the wine ran out, Jesus turned the jugs of water into wine: his first miracle.
5. Caravaggio- contrast // dark to light // faces
Deposition (or Entombment): Christ’s followers remove his body from the cross after the crucifixion and place him in his tomb. Caravaggio’s style with no background, only darkness, illuminates the central focus: the people. This style, tenebroso, is quite dramatic.
Medusa: I wanted to highlight the intensity of his facial expressions. There is always at least one figure in his paintings whose expressions are overflowing with emotions.
6. Rembrandt- medical school memory // Amsterdam // anatomy
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp: This painting depicts the doctor explaining the arm musculature after dissection. Tulp was the official City Anatomist in Amsterdam in 1632. Anatomy lessons were public events in theaters at the time. The city allowed only one dissection a year, on the body of an executed criminal. I was first introduced to this painting in my History of Anatomy elective of my first year in medical school. It resonates with my memories of anatomy lab, dissecting for hours and hours to find the minute nerves, tendons, and blood vessels of the extremities.
7. Diego Velazquez– royalty // entourage // child
Las Meninas: This painting takes place in the Royal Alcazar of Madrid with Infanta Margaret Theresa surrounded by her entourage. You can see Velazquez behind them, painting on a canvas. This was the first painting I felt a connection with. I was visiting Spain in high school and experiencing art museums for the first time (sad, I know.. I’m a little behind the times). I remember staring at this painting for quite awhile, just staring into the child’s eyes. I really have no idea why this painting calls to me, but it does, so here it is!
8. Vincent Van Gogh– artist // insanity // swirls
Starry Night: I have yet to see this wonderful work of art (only made it to the Met in NYC, no MOMA yet..) He painted this during his stay in the asylum, during the day, from the memory of night. Under the stars sits the village of Saint-Remy. “For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of stars makes me dream.”
9. Georgia O’keefe– florals // skeletons & bones // desert
Pansy: I have always loved Georgia O’keefe’s flowers. Anyone who knows me, has witnessed my obsession with flowers. I have so many botany pictures on my computer and I can’t help but stop and snap a few pics of any colorful piece of greenery I pass. I was first introduced to her work in 7th grade art class. We painted our own versions of her flowers. Obviously, they weren’t even close to on par with her perfection.
10. Matisse– florals // designs // odalisque
In honor of the museum’s Matisse exhibit, I thought I could highlight his quotes, paintings and the man himself.
I hope you enjoyed my top ten artists // paintings // sculptures. I’m sure with more exposure to the world of creativity and art, I will transform my tastes, my opinions and my thoughts. Art is such a wonderful way to express yourself, teach others, depict history and stories, and grow as a person. It can even be a medium of social change. As my most laid back year of medical school begins, I hope to attribute more time to developing my own artistic abilities. I am enrolling in a ceramics class in late Fall and have already promised myself a few sun-filled afternoons outside with a sketch pad. I hope to channel my thoughts through art, a creative outlet for the stress of everyday life. Every once in awhile it’s nice to stop and appreciate the beauty of nature and the beauty that we can create. Art may not serve a functional purpose, a way to survive, to find food/water/shelter, but it does make the world a little bit more beautiful.
Enjoy the beautiful day!