My Favorite Paintings
My apology for not writing about “My Favorite Poem or Poet” this month. April is National Poetry Month in the United States, and that is a cause for celebration. However, a recent initiative at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston caught my eye, so I need to write about it.
Visitors to the museum were asked to vote for their favorite Impressionist paintings. The winners will be hung in the exhibition “Boston Loves Impressionism.” Curator Emily Beeny has tapped into people’s love of one of the most eye-pleasing movements in art history and come up with this populist art exhibit. She is correct: Impressionism simply revels in the beauty of light and color. What’s not to like? It will be interesting to see what the majority of art lovers have chosen as their favorites from the MFA’s formidable collection. (Side note: the Worcester Art Museum, which is right down the street from my house, was the first American museum to purchase a Monet.)
Reading about the upcoming exhibition made me think about what my favorite paintings might be, knowing full well that I would first need to eliminate every sculpture or installation that popped into my brain. Inevitably, when I thought “paintings,” too many surfaced. I added the word “because” to each one, so that I would have to explain myself.
Ten of my favorite paintings are arranged from my earliest to more recent recollections:
+ An illustration of an angel sitting by a brook, which as a tiny child, I was mesmerized by. It was my first conscious attraction to art. The scene lives in my memory the same way the word elephant does: I can remember the moment I decoded it in a book and realized that I could read!
+ Paul Gauguin’s “The Yellow Christ” at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York because it was so unlike the reverent religious art I saw in church. It was shocking and raw in its emotion, making me realize art can convey more than beauty.
+ Jasper John’s “Numbers in Color,” also at the Albright-Knox, because it made me think: What? These are numbers! But they are shapes! Numbers minus the meaning = art!
+ Willem de Kooning’s “Gotham News” at the Albright-Knox because, because, because…it was all about paint!
+ Henri Matisse’s “La Musique” because I could go and stare at it for a long time between classes at Buffalo State, when I should have been studying in the library.
+ Marc Chagall’s “Peasant Life” because it put me into a dream world, when I should have been studying in the library.
+ A clown painted by Georges Rouault that has no title because its pigments have sunken into darkness. As a kid, I used to love it. Luckily, one of my favorite Rouault landscape paintings is in great shape at the Worcester Art Museum where I can visit it.
+ Claude Monet’s water lily extravaganza in L’Orangerie in Paris. Sitting alone in the center of the room with its curved walls, I felt as if I were in the water.
+ Pablo Picasso’s “Guernica” because, no matter how many times I have seen it, I learn something new about composition.
+ My tenth favorite painting is any one of the paintings we have in our home. Each one has earned its way into my list because of the joy it gives when I am in any one of several moods. My eyes come to rest on a painting, and I remember seeing it for the first time, knowing I could not live without it.
Writing this list made me realize again how lucky I was to grow up in Buffalo, New York, where my relationship with art began.