Reality and the Artist’s Eye

Prompt: The Artist’s Eye
Is there a painting or sculpture you’re drawn to? What does it say to you? Describe the experience.

Picasso nude

When I lived in Chicago, I was fortunate enough to take a few classes at the Art Institute there. It remains one of the greatest experiences of my life, not just because of the quality of the teaching, nor the immense talent of my fellow students, but also because a bus dropped me off in front of the main entrance to the Art Institute and I climbed those stairs, was admitted to the gallery, and walked the length of it, carrying my portfolio, every single day I went to class.

So I was surrounded by the most breathtaking and inspiring work every time I walked through the galleries. I even had to pass through the room housing an epic Chagal stained glass to reach the School of the Art Institute.

One memory, one moment of those times has stayed with me. An artist friend was visiting me in Chicago, and of course we toured the gallery. One of the pieces I passed daily was a modern painting by Pablo Picasso. It was not my favourite, nor was the cubist style of art. But my friend was enthralled by it.

You are seeing more than a person, she told me. You are seeing all sides of that person, inside that person, you are seeing the essence of someone as seen by the artist.

So I looked at the picture with new eyes. I saw that no part of the image was wasteful, that every line and every bit of colour was important. I saw, for the first time, something I had never seen before. The inside of someone’s soul, right there in front of me. I have never studied Picasso or any of the moderns, and I am no expert, but my friend gifted me with a simple way to understand and feel connected to works of art that had once held too many secrets.

The Picasso painting I walked by was not the picture I’ve posted above, which is called Nude Under a Pine. But it was a picture much like that one. I was studying figure drawing, and my goal at the time was to make the figures look real and beautiful. Picasso’s nude is not beautiful, is it? But I know now, I feel now, at this moment, that it is more real than anything I have ever seen.


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