07 February 2011

The Artist's Journey

I'm a Google guy now.

I spend my snow days studying manuals on Google Apps in Education. I am now up to three different Google accounts--one for personal and two for teaching.

When I learned about Google Art Project, and when I got to peer close enough to a Van Gogh to see the brush strokes at what seemed to be an inch away from my nose, I was sold.

This afternoon, as snow blanketed the lawn outside my house, I took a tour of the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin. GAP offers two ways to tour a museum. Through "Explore the Museum" one can walk through the galleries, a la Google Streetview, and focus in on the paintings on the walls.

I prefer the more conventional "View Artwork" that allows the visitor to scroll from painting to painting. That's the way I visited the Alte Nationalgalerie today, and when I realized the depth of paintings they had on German Romanticism, I just had to start a "collection" (view the link to see the pictures I selected for yourself).

Because of the focus of my collection, I left out some Monet and Renoir as well as sculptures that I enjoyed.

One of my favorite "discoveries" was Moritz von Schwind's "The Rose, or The Artist's Journey" (above). Painted in 1847, it develops the Romantic love of both storytelling and love of the medieval. It was the clever title which drew me into the painting.

The painting is about inspiration--it beckons the viewer into the Imaginative Life. Indeed there are many artists in the painting, climbing the narrow path to the castle, hailed by trumpets and banners.

There are women--the hope for love. They peer, and they preen for the guests, gossiping and flirting. And there is one musician--a clarinet player--who hasn't caught the pleasure of the castle, but instead has looked down...where he finds...inspiration.

It's a rose, a small pink rose. It isn't the first detail of the painting that catches the eye--we actually catch the red jacket of the clarinetist and follow the reds of the players up the path toward the castle. The pink won't catch the eye until the second or third time through the story--when we've given up on the haughty woman in the pink dress.

But once the pink rose catches the viewer's eye--a second or two after the clarinetist's discovery--the setting ends and the story begins. We return to his eyes: a look of surprise, a reward for contemplation and absent-mindedness. We look above the eyes. A bouquet of pink roses rests on the edge of the balcony, next to a blonde beauty who happens to be looking down at her bait.

For once in the painting, we see her first. She's a handmaid, the only one of the attendants not busy with the pink princess. The viewer ends the story in the place where love stories should end: looking back and forth between the girl and the boy, noticing their matching blond hair, wondering how they might meet at one of the performances, wondering about...well, whether happily ever after might exist.

The painting is "The Artist's Journey," and it really is. It is the ideal journey that is every artist's fantasy, incorporating story, song and romance in away that engages the viewer and carries them along on the trip.