Besides the Eiffel Tower, the one thing that everyone thinks of when they think of Paris are the museums and the artwork. The Louvre houses Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest work La Jaconde, or simply, the Mona Lisa. Musée d’Orsay houses many of the French art pieces from 1848 to 1915. For those who love impressionism, you’ll find many impressionist artists’ works at this museum. Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Manet and Degas all find a home for their masterpieces within the walls of this old train station.
The first time I ever laid eyes upon a Degas original was in the d’Orsay when I was 16 years old. At the time, the Degas exhibit was under renovation so there were only a few paintings on the walls. Sheets of plastic from the floor to the ceiling covered the entire area to be renovated.
As I was walking by, totally bummed that I only got to see a few Degas paintings and not the ones I was hoping to see…it was then that I saw her.
She was inside the walls of plastic standing so majestically and untouched by the drama of construction around her. Her stance was so tall. So confident. She was literally the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She took my breath away. This was Degas’ statue of the Little Dancer at 14 years old.
I walked around the plastic walls, hoping to find an opening so I could see her more clearly. I had walked to the far end of the room and couldn’t find an opening. Just as I gave up and was starting to walk out a different exit, I found an opening and stopped.
There she was. No plastic to skew my view. Her skirt, made of fabric. Degas made her skirt out of fabric! I was so amazed that he had put a real skirt and a bow on a statue. It left this young teenager in awe. Degas was something else.
The artists that left a great impression on me were the impressionists. They saw beauty the way people sometimes stop and look at the world in wonder and amazement. They were able to capture those moments of wonder and incorporate it into art.
In a way, impressionism is like seeing beauty skewed…like there’s something separating you from the true beauty. It’s like seeing Degas’ Little Dancer through a sheet of plastic. You know that moment of wonder is there, but our vision is skewed from seeing the true beauty behind that wall. We can’t see it clearly. Instead, the entire moment of beauty is in seeing it skewed by seeing the message in a much bigger picture.
There is always something that separates us from seeing the raw, nakedness of beauty. Even in this day and age, we can’t get to the true beauty. On women, there’s layers of makeup, clothes and products galore. For painters, they have to use layers upon layers of paint to create their design. Most of us spend so much time looking at our devices for beauty in a picture that is manipulated through Photoshop or the color doesn’t come out clearly through the screen. Sometimes the lens doesn’t pick up the true colors when the photograph is taken.
We’re not seeing that true moment of raw beauty in front of us; not in the way the naked eye sees it in the moment’s rawest form. We are seeing the beauty skewed.
This is the way mankind has been looking at beauty for a long time. If anything, impressionism is proof of that.
Maybe next time when you see a flower blooming, you’ll stop to admire it in ways that will make you appreciate beauty in its rawest forms. In this day and age, looking up from our devices and appreciating the beauty around us is a rarity. The world chooses to not stop and smell the roses. But trust me, you do want to stop in your tracks every once in a while and take in that raw beauty.