On a wintry morning at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I went from gallery to gallery looking at art. I was looking at the people as much as the paintings. I was on a mission to find a new subject or subjects for my own paintings.
I have recently been fascinated with museum visitors. Generally speaking, they seem to be so intrigued and at peace with their surroundings. It was so nice to see people happily disappear into the art in a room. Museums were a refuge.
In a small gallery in the contemporary section of the Metropolitan (gallery 826) there was a room of Van Gogh’s.
I came across this small group of people looking intently at the “Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat”. It was painted by van Gogh in 1887, on the reverse side of a painting he had done earlier “The Potato Peeler”. He was known to do these studies back-to-back to save money on canvas. It was an educational exercise in technique for him to do these self-portraits. He is quoted saying “I purposely bought a good enough mirror to work from myself, for want of a model.”
This group of four seemed to be together, and spent a long time studying this one painting as others moved through the gallery.
It was their only interest. I found myself getting caught up in their observation, asking my own questions. The group speaks for itself. The small painting is like a magnet. Art is a wonderful thing. It can bring out the best of ourselves, even as just observers.