So today we went to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, in Richmond, a wonderful little gem of an art museum that’s completely free to the public (except for the occasional special exhibit). It’s a wonderful, complex building with stairways literally everywhere, elevators, and levels upon levels of art. It seems to have a bit of a lack of cohesion when it comes to the layout, but that’s part of the charm … turn a corner, and find yourself stepping from Ancient Egypt into the world of British Sport Art.
I find myself endlessly fascinated with the way people are depicted in art. While I’m in awe of those painters who can perfectly recreate skin tones, the folds of fabric, eyelashes and the slight gleam of a fingernail, I am equally (even more so) drawn to the artists who use a raw strength to capture the essence of human-ness, without all of the small details detracting from the pureness of the paint.
Many people I know believe that photo-realism represents the greatest achievement of art, but with this I disagree. First, many tricks are used to create photorealistic art … projections onto the canvas of the image; microgridding so the artist almost becomes a human copy machine; even images literally printed onto the canvas before being painted over. Which is fine if one likes the effect, but not so much a demonstration of artistic skill.
Me, I love the soft gentleness of Renaissance women, the distortions of Mannerists such as El Greco, and the brutality of the German Expressionists. I love that we all are seeing people, but in so many different and wonderful ways. Here, from the VMFA, are some people I met today: