Do you love it or hate it? Are you inspired by it or bored with it? Do you immediately get the importance of it or do you think that your kindergartener could do a better job? Can you connect it to its history or is it just a mish-mash of stuff that is set up in an old building? Oh art!!! It can be an overwhelming part of travel that can be difficult to tackle! Let’s try to make art an enjoyable part of your experiences no matter where you fall on the “I love art” spectrum. So, wands up! Art lovers unite!
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I’ve go to be honest…
Just like everyone else, I saw great art in high school and I didn’t care. I didn’t get why it was important at all! I mean, I got it but it wasn’t my thing. So, what changed over the years? Well, the one thing that really interested me were good stories. More specifically, I like the puzzle of how this story over here affected that story waaaaaayyyyy over there. It’s fascinating to me. And those tales, my friends, are found by the boat load in history books.
As I learned more, art became a more important part of that history puzzle. At first, it wasn’t so much the technique or style of art. Instead, it was what was happening while that art was being made. Some made complete sense like Michealangelo. Other times though, I couldn’t believe that a piece of art was being created under such extreme circumstances like the Book of Kells. I mean, how does one come up with the idea for a super cool colorful bible while one is being attacked by Vikings? Fascinating!!
Not into to every kind of art
I’ll admit it! I’m just not that into Egyptian art and I can pass on Picasso. I appreciate it, but, it’s just not to my liking. And that’s okay! Liking art doesn’t mean loving every aspect of it. I appreciate how the Egyptians came up with different pigments and how there are cave painting in Southern France but give me bougie Monet any day and I’m happy.
I found that I gravitated to certain types of artists after a while, and that makes art all the more interesting to me. As a travel junkie, I love to see local art but, I fell in love with impressionism. So, I am always on the lookout no matter where I am in the world for whoever has one of those lovely canvases that “catches the light”!
I fell so deep, in fact, that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit stunning Giverny in all it’s Monet glory. (Ummm… don’t pass it up either!) In fact, it was right in the heart of impressionistic Giverny that my love affair with this school of art was cemented. Just in the center of the little artists’ village is a wonderful museum full of famous works. There, a great exhibit about how Impressionism was inspired by Japanese Manga was in full swing. Japan and France unite? It was true! They told the story so well and by the end of the exhibit, I could totally see how those two puzzle pieces went together! Snap!
When I was a little girl, my grandfather took me to the National Gallery of Art. I walked around and saw the amazing works by so many famous artists but, I was little. I really had no idea. Two famous paintings there are by Monet and depict the cathedral in Rouen at dawn then at dusk. The study of light draws many to analyze the similarities and differences. Again, it didn’t mean much. Fast forward many years to when I got the chance to visit Rouen. Just across from the very same cathedral is the TI. The sweet young man behind the counter was kind enough to bring us upstairs and allowed us to sit in the very window that Monet had painted from. With a print of his work in front of us, it completely changed the way I looked at those two canvases way back in Washington DC!
In setu, meaning “in the setting intended” can drastically change how you look and appreciate a piece of art. Native American art will always appeal to me more in Santa Fe than it does in Miami. The Art Noveu style found in Prague is far more interesting there where the movement was born than in London where I am far more interested in Victorian works. Art in setu can completely change why art matters.
The Art In Architecture
Maybe reluctant art lovers have a simpler choice to start with. Something that is easily accessed and readily available. Travelers looking to make a connection with art sometimes can simply look around and enjoy the art in architecture. Sitting on a plaza in some amazing European city can be a– wait for it– a proverbial feast for the eyes!
I was sitting on the banks of the Vistula river in Krakow enjoying the Summer sunshine and taking in the scene around me. Old men playing chess under the castle walls that turned Krakow into a city of stone instead of a city of wood were playing serious matches against one another. The spires of the many churches rose up into the skyline telling a story of age and time. That one was an onion dome, the other a stepped church facade popular in the region. I turned to see a steeple with neo classical feel. Modern buildings rose up behind me while a bridge that crossed the river came to life with sculpture intertwined into the structure. I sipped my wine and sat back and smiled.
Whether you are looking at the reconstruction of the Notre Dame or categorizing the classes of columns at some Greek ruins, architecture could be just the ticket for the curious traveler to start enjoying the art world.
The Power of Wow
I was sharing the lovely Rialto bridge with some students one day and it was obvious that I found more joy in it than they did. I finally asked what they thought about it. It’s okay they said but it was just an old bridge. I mentioned how they built that bridge with out electricity. They countered that you don’t need electricity to enjoy a crane and a bulldozer. “Well, I guess maybe I should say that there were no engines, nothing to plug in, no lights, nothing, but they built that.”
A student looked closer. “How did they carve that design?” With a hammer and chisel I said. ” What if they made a mistake?” Good question. “Well, how did they lift that up into place?” Simple machines like ramps and pulleys. “Wow! It really is beautiful!” Ah! Success! Another art lover created!
“Wow” is a super important word in art and needs to be used as much as possible. It allows all of us to look at art from so many different angles. How was it created? What kind of talent did it take? How did they build it? How did they find those colors? Why is it so dark? The list goes on and on. The answer always has the potential to be exactly the same: wow! In an age when it seems harder and harder to impress, art never disappoints.
Beware of Sleeping Giants
So there I was…. walking down the great avenues in Paris and I was headed toward one of the pillars of the art word. You guessed it! I was going to the Louvre! C’mon! You know that if you ever set foot in Paris, it’s a mandatory stop and probably the most important stop within is the legendary Mona Lisa!!!
If I could insert the “screeching tires” sound right here I would! The Mona Lisa has to be the biggest let down in art! First, the gallery is so CROWDED! And the painting itself? SO SMALL! In fact, it’s no technical masterpiece compared to other DaVinci works. The truth is that the real reason Mona is such a household name is because she was stolen in 1911 by some poor schlump named Vincenzo Peruggia. The works inside The Louvre far outpace Ms. Lisa and Vinnie’s escapades and have so much more depth and history to them.
The reality is that seeing icons can be a bit of a let down after so much hype. Sometimes, you’ve got to find the hidden pieces in the quiet corners to really appreciate the talent involved. One such piece is “Lady With Ermine” a contemporary of Mona Lisa which is located in Krakow, Poland. The art itself is a bit bigger and currently sits in the Czartoryski Palace. The piece, just like the Mona Lisa, was stolen and took quite some time to return. The museum helps tell the story of this DaVinci great.
You’ve Got Style!
I am the first to admit it! I am not a fan of post impressionist cubism of the early 20th century. There I said it. Did you even understand it?! All it means is that I don’t like modern art. It’s just not my thing and that’s okay! Maybe your thing isn’t Byzantine frescoes or maybe you just can’t look at art deco. Whatever your tastes are, there’s a style of art for you to enjoy! From cartoon work out of Brussels to ancient calligraphy from the Far East, there’s something for everyone. The key is to find the connections between it all!
Finding a style to appreciate, Impressionism, Byzantine, Dutch masters, Renaissance, Rococo, Baroque, Gothic, Ancient artistic understanding gives any beginner in art appreciation a launching pad. Check out this book by Rick Steves to hone in on what makes you art happy and what your personal style is. Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!
We Americans have a very conservative take on the human body. In general, we find anything immodest not healthy or salacious. This is especially prevalent when it comes to our children. No matter how you feel, if you plan on introducing art into your kid friendly travels, you are going to have to tackle naked art!
The human form is the apex of artistic talent and is studied in every possible pose a human can create. From the epic David to the patriotic Winged Victory, human pieces and parts are on display all over the world. Please be prepared for that if you have little ones in tow!!! Lol!
Art Every Day
Creating a habit of infusing the art that you’ve come to appreciate can help any traveler become a true art aficionado! Check out these super cool apps that give you just a drop of art every single day! Pass on what doesn’t appeal to you and spend as little as a minute with what stands out!
Google Arts and Culture App connects you to all kinds of art opportunities around the world. It’s a great place to check in and just see what’s new and happening.
Daily Art is the simplest app I’ve ever used. Sign up and choose a time. Each day one piece of art is sent out and you will get notified of that. Open the app and read one or two paragraphs about the art that is shared. Easy-peasy!
A couple of amazing stories based on art are out there to enjoy as you get ready for your travels. Check out these great films:
How do you feel about art on a scale of 1 to 10?
Art permeates more than museum walls. It sings through music, it soars in architecture, and it smiles through everyday life. Art is not for the elite, it’s for you and me. It’s for those who are looking to expand their horizons to take on the future by understanding the past.