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S M T W T F S
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P086: anti-Stendhal syndrome

2015.03.27
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The kid makes this picture. I wish I could show you how much she jumped about.
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Every time I go to a museum, I ask myself "which item would I steal?". This is mine from today's visit. It's a "warm" Dufy from the south, one of his early ones, when he was still amazed by the light.
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Two Lempickas. Not her best.
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The obligatory Wall of Boudin
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"The" Monet. (Not one of his best)
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A couple of Rodins
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I think the photographer makes the picture.
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Stendhal syndrome is a psychosomatic reaction to too much beauty. The term derives from Stendhal’s description of what we would now call a panic attack after viewing too much art during his 1817 visit to Florence.

Check.

I get it, although I’ve never experienced it. Florentine hospitals are used to tourists turning up freaked out.

Is there an opposite syndrome when faced with too much ugliness? If a name has yet to be found, I suggest “Le Havre syndrome”, the jaw-dropping awe at something so hideously ugly the viewer wonders how on earth it could have been built. I experienced the same fascination that drivers feel crawling past a nasty traffic accident when I visited St. Joseph’s church in Le Havre yesterday and left wishing that Le Havre was in a seismic zone. It was also a day when I went to the local museum of modern art, which I swore I wouldn’t post at the same time.

As you may know, I’m a museum junkie. If there’s a dusty repository of forgotten cultural artefacts staffed by half-wits related to the local mayor, then I’m sure to know it. Not because they’re the fossilised showcases of the past, but because they tell how we feel about ourselves today.

The Le Havre museum of modern art is a misnomer. It features a lot of second-tier impressionists’ work, far too much of local boy Eugène Boudin’s oeuvre (d. 1898), the occasional 16th and 17th work from the French and Dutch schools and a few early Dufys. (Dufy, another local lad, had the good sense to bugger off at the earliest possible opportunity.) I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of Lempickas, although why they’re here is a mystery. But, as provincial museums go, it’s a good deal. What is important is that the museum is welcoming. It’s full of light, warm and reasonably small. The clincher for me was watching kids comfortably sprawled on the floor listening — quite attentively, I must say — to impassioned guides talking over their heads. There were priceless pictures of children, their eyes glazed over, trying to listen to somebody droning on at them that I would have loved to take, but French law prevents me from doing this. It left me with a very, very strong desire to volunteer my services as a guide. I want to send children off on a pictural treasure hunt: “find a princess”, “find an apple”, “find a mother”, “what are the connections?”… and let them make their own minds up.

Art, like other languages, talks to us. Unlike spoken languages, the grammar helps enjoy it. All it takes is a tiny little hook and we're caught forever, and our lives are immeasurably richer as a result.

I appreciate that none of the above has the same visual impact of the previous post’s images, but I find them far more satisfying. They’re about people, not some concrete junkie’s megalomaniac ravings.

This, as opposition to the previous musical quote.
9 Comments
helys superbe reportage
Les #2 et 7 sont mes favs!
helys · 2015-03-27: 17:34
popparatzee I have to admit, seeing such classics in a ultra modern setting is a little strange to me, but you shot them well. FYI: Claude Monet's series of paintings of The Gare Saint-Lazare are my favorite.
popparatzee · 2015-03-27: 18:38
Lsample Great post! I have seen lesser museums in my day and you have captured it well! My wife and I went to see the water lilies in Boston on our honeymoon. And I have many times regretted getting to that point where one more piece of art just might land me in the hospital. Know the feeling well.
Lsample · 2015-03-27: 19:37
busybee Yes Art so old in such a modern building, so used to seeing London Galleries...................I can spend all day wondering around.
busybee · 2015-03-28: 03:32
MoMac Thanks for sharing this interesting museum and some of the art within its "walls".
MoMac · 2015-03-28: 03:47
marilynx What l like about this series is you use of light!
Thanks for showing some of the paintings.
I hadn't realized until recently what a vast difference a good frame makes.
It really can enhance a painting.
marilynx · 2015-03-28: 04:33
Karramba Very spacious place...
I like Lempicka's paintings.
Karramba · 2015-03-28: 06:18
angil No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.
Oscar Wilde

angil · 2015-03-28: 08:30
pcmcgarry Not a great fan of art museums, I quickly get art blindness. This museum looks to make fabulous use of natural light. My fave of acvery interesting set is #13.
pcmcgarry · 2015-03-29: 09:06
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Tagged: p365 art museum marmara
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