As I stood there looking into the painting as if it were a portal back in time. I could think of nothing but what it must have felt like to be abandoned from your ship by no choice of your own, as illustrated in “A Storm on a Mediterranean Coast” by Claude-Joseph Vernet. Art can do that to people, you can feel emotions that are unable to be put into words, and see things that are indescribable. Although art is conceptually viewed differently by each person. Art is better in person as opposed to digitally, as art has more beauty when able to be viewed as it was originally intended.
While everyone has different views on how art should be viewed, my experience viewing art in person as to online was extremely different. The atmosphere that was set by the art museum had a huge impact on the way that I was actually able to see the art. Combined with the atmosphere, it better encouraged me to look deeper into the art to notice minute detail, to see more fear, anger, agony, confusion, and concern. I was able to look at the art face to face as the artist painted it.
I could not help but imagine myself painting the beautiful peace, standing right as he did when it was produced from the end of his paintbrush as if creating life itself. With each brush stroke, he bled emotion as if painting his life story. Viewing art digitally may be convenient but it comes at a cost which is only able to be rectified by viewing the piece face to face. While I did view “A Storm on a Mediterranean Coast” digitally, I did not feel any of the same emotions I felt towards it while standing in the presence of it in real life.
I could not see the faces with accurate detail due to the size and limitations of the monitor I was using, which was created with a mixture of three LED lights that, if you focused hard enough on you could see the individual red, blue, and green lights as they create a painting that has so much more to it than that. The atmosphere that was present during the digital viewing of the painting was not one to view art in. There was music playing in the distance that sounded of hard rock n roll, there were also people around talking which pulled my attention from the digital painting to their conversations subconsciously.
Nothing felt special about viewing the art digitally like it did face to face, I see hundreds of images on the internet every day that I’ve learned to block out due to the nature of ads and marketing, and the digital painting felt no different to that of an internet ad. Comparing art face to face and face to screen is a very odd experience, almost as if comparing your feelings of a loved one through facetime or face to face. You feel the same on the surface level, but on a deeper level you know it’s nothing alike.
Yes in both instances I was looking at the exact same painting, on in both instances I had the same shallow feelings of fear. But only when face to face in the presence of the painting was I able to see the confusion, the terror, and the pain that was being displayed on a much deeper level. I was able to see what the artist saw, and stand where the artist stood, and feel exactly what the artist Claude-Joseph Vernet intended to be felt.
Both pictures are literally the same on an external level, but the way your emotions are swayed from one side to another is something only shared with the authentic piece. As quoted from Mark Doty’s “Still Life with Oysters and Lemons”, “Everything here has been transformed into feeling, as if by looking very hard at an object it suddenly comes that much closer to some realm where it isn’t a thing at all but something just on the edge of dissolving”(6). This passage perfectly describes my experience while looking at art for the first time in my life with an eye for deeper meaning.
I spent two hours walking around the Getty art museum looking for a piece of art I can actually connect with in an attempt to see what’s not on the surface. As I looked into the painting, the first 15 minutes all I saw was an ocean with a sunken ship. But as time continued and my eyes drifted further and further into the piece I started to see a story develop, A tragic story. I saw myself as being aboard the ship that was sinking, and trying to carry out my wife as her lungs filled with seawater. I saw the fear in my crews face as none of us saw the storm coming.
The experience was life changing. I for the first time in my life was able to see art as it was intended. As time continued, I started to think about what must have been going through Vernet’s mind while painting the scene, has he been through something similar? Art is beautiful and I was never able to appreciate it for more than just paint on a canvas until this day. In conclusion, art has meaning to many people in many ways. The way I viewed this piece of art may not be the same way a peer will.
But I can say that if you do not put yourself in front of the art then you may never experience the intended feelings that the artist intended to be seen. I now see art as a story, a chance to go back in time to a point you could never naturally experience. I would love for everyone to experience art the way I was fortunately able to view it and will continue to view it for the rest of my life. Take 30 minutes out of your day next time you go to a museum and really feel the painting you’re looking at.