I started my Fund For Teachers fellowship experience by crying in public, and I don’t care who knows it. It’s been a long time since a painting made me cry like that. Tear up maybe, choke up, sure, wet-face can’t speak crying? Not since the early 80’s, at Philbrook, at an exhibit from the Museum of fine Arts, Boston. After a couple galleries of big dark French academy works, so studied and posed and serious, I came upon a small Degas Racehorses at Longchamp and the thought of this guy at the races taking a little panel from his coat pocket and painting such a perfectly alive, luminous, fluid, beautiful thing just killed me. So I was sniffling and wiping my eyes when I came upon a fellow weeper, a guy with long black hair & big glasses & he was sobbing in front of Van Gogh’s Houses in Auvers. So, like the row of four babies we were seated among on the flight over a couple of days ago, I started crying too!
Yesterday’s public sobbing was at the Munch Museum’s brilliant exhibit examining the remarkable parallels between the lives and art of local hero Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh. The exhibit included great examples of their predecessors and influences as well. But the very first room had without warning, The Potato Eaters, and equally without warning I couldn’t stop myself from starting to cry. I would have never expected that but there you have it. His first masterpiece, as a nobody, already painting in a way nobody ever had, with a sensitivity for the poor never before seen in art in the same way. And now I will never see that painting in the same way either.