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Touching the Van Gogh

by | Apr 8, 2019 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

The magic of seeing art in person

You probably shouldn’t touch the Van Gogh. That being said, I recently was in a conversation with a two different women who have touched a Van Gogh. One woman had the experience when she was a little girl, and everyone was touching the paintings. Conservation and museum norms sure have changed. The other, couldn’t resist when she somehow found herself alone with one for a moment. I get that. I had that thought once too, while a few feet away from an original Van Gogh. They are magic.

There is a magic in the original, isn’t there? With a painting we know that the artist’s brush touched it. Those colors were mixed and applied. Decisions made. But it happened *right there*. Experiencing art in person is so incredibly different.

Kristen O'Neill, Wonderland Trail Mt. Rainier
©Kristen O’Neill, Wonderland Trail No. 1, Thirty-six Views of Mt. Rainier. Acrylic on Canvas, 18″ x 24″ Available in case you need original art nearby you. https://kristenoneillart.com/product/wonderland-trail-no-1-36-views-of-mt-rainier-series/

When I teach art, and we are copying a master’s work, I remind my students that the color copy they have in front of them isn’t correct. It may do a good job of replicating some of the colors, and their relationships. But it isn’t the true color. And even in person, the true color may change as the light in the room changes. A camera captures an image. Probably turns its it a bit too blue too. Then a computer uploads that image and portrays it. Then the screen settings changes the color. Then someone color corrects it… then someone saves it, and prints it… How far removed are we?

Even with a perfect color reproduction (doesn’t happen), it still isn’t the same. Original prints can exist. Screen prints, woodblock prints, etc., all can be the original product. But, a with re-print – that magic is lost.

Reproductions are to originals what skype is to a in-person visit. Sure, I get the message, but it isn’t the same experience! Same with a painting. We need to be with the original. To have our own moment with it. Although, we really shouldn’t touch the Van Gogh.