One Painting at a Time
Entry 1, February 15, 2013: Inspired by two encounters with Louvre paintings last summer, one in the Louvre itself as part of a visit to Paris and the other in a book called The Louvre: All the Paintings, which I received as a present shortly after my return, I began spending half an hour or more each day in looking at an artist’s work or works in the book, and writing something about the experience. It was a way, I hoped, of maintaining contact with the precious experience of travel and also of improving my acquaintance with great art.
I recorded my first visit to the book the day after I received it; what I wrote shows that I was already worried about whether the project would go anywhere; I mention the sobering calculation that, with 3,022 pictures to look at, doing one painting per day would take more than eight years. Even though I felt that a commitment of more time than half an hour per day would likely mean I would give the project up, I decided to speed things along by doing an artist a day, rather than only one work per day. The book contains works by a little more than 1,000 artists; doing an artist a day would take a little less than three years.
During the past six months, I have missed only two days, but I don’t think I’ll make it through the book in three years. After several weeks of looking at a new artist’s work or works each day, I decided to take one day out each week to review what I had already looked at. I didn’t want to just make notes; I wanted to have easy memory access to more of the data than I was retaining. I especially wanted to be able to give more time to artists represented in the book by several paintings (da Vinci has six, for example, but I have already encountered several with more than 10, which is a lot to get through in half an hour). I added another day for review, and most recently I have reduced the days for new pictures yet again, to only four per week, so that I could start working on this blog.
I hope to add at least one post per week; my plan is to devote each post to a single painting, but, as I begin, I must admit that I already have all sorts of subjects I might like to add someday, such as identifying stylistic or thematic links among several paintings or comparing the experience of seeing a reproduction with seeing the original in the museum or even considering whether the original in the museum is truly the original work, since all the paintings in the Louvre were created for display in other settings.