Friday, January 03, 2014

Taking museum photos

Is taking photos in a museum a good idea? An article in the Washington Post explores the subject:
We spent hours and hours in museums in Vienna, enjoying the paintings and sculpture. When hordes of people push by masterpieces, holding their phones up and clicking as they run by, you wonder about what they're getting out of the experience. The author of this article suggests that by taking the photo, you "own" the piece of art. You look at it your way - even if it is through the view finder on your camera or phone.

I agree. 

Personally, I like to close in on a piece of a painting. Learned this from my husband who likes to reduce a painting/sculpture to a smaller more intimate image and often takes photos of just the hands. 

When I saw these carved angels, I was fascinated with the wings and with the emergence of wings or are they scratches? on the back of the central angel. At home, I was able to crop my photo and examine the figure closely and admire the whimsy, the creativity, the love that poured into this work. For some reason this brought to mind the film "Black Swan" where feathers emerge from shoulders and back of the ballerina. 

Here's a piece out of a Vermeer, "The Art of Painting". I loved the whole painting but was interested in the figure and face of the "muse". In the museum, you can't get up close enough to take a really good look. With my own photo, I can look at any part of it at my leisure, without stopping museum traffic.  

I cropped out two little sections out of the famous Pieter Bruegel painting, "Children's Games". Even in the almost empty museum, there's always a little crowd in front of this one. Parents bring their children to see it. All the Bruegels are favorites. 

The faces of the children don't look as happy as the name of the painting would imply.   This painting is regularly cropped into pieces in art books as 80 games are supposed to be depicted. From Wiki, more explanation...

The children, who range in age from toddlers to adolescents, roll hoops, walk on stilts, spin hoops, ride hobby-horses, stage mock tournaments, play leap-frog and blind man's bluff, perform handstands, inflate pigs' bladders and play with dolls and other toys.They have also taken over the large building that dominates the square: it may be a town hall or some other important civic building, in this way emphasizing the moral that the adults who direct civic affairs are as children in the sight of God. This crowded scene is to some extent relieved by the landscape in the top left-hand corner; but even here children are bathing in the river and playing on its banks.
The artist's intention for this work is more serious than simply to compile an illustrated encyclopaedia of children's games, though some eighty particular games have been identified.Bruegel shows the children absorbed in their games with the seriousness displayed by adults in their apparently more important pursuits. His moral is that in the mind of God children's games possess as much significance as the activities of their parents. This idea was a familiar one in contemporary literature: in an anonymous Flemish poem published in Antwerp in 1530 by Jan van Doesborch , mankind is compared to children who are entirely absorbed in their foolish games and concerns.[2]

Everybody was fascinated by this acrylic woman - so realistic. I wanted to look closer but drew the line at crawling around the thing on my hands and knees. Many people did just that. I think it's less creepy to get the image home and wonder at the skill of the sculptor. Those feet were amazing. 

I really loved this painting, the Bogenschnitzender Cupid, by Parmigianino.  The little children under the angel pull you into the scene.  The cupid is sawing on a bow. When I cropped my bad photo (with a big reflecting light spot and too far away) I could see bits of sawdust on the shoulder of the really naughty little angel. He's holding the other child, a little girl?, so tightly her hand is red. He looks like he is pretending to protect her and embrace her but is really torturing her and getting away with it. What a look on his face. 

And to emphasize how really terrible my photo is, here's one from the Kunsthistorisches Museums

But the little cropped bit of my original isn't so bad.....
Here's one of Richard's hand extractions. I'm ashamed to say I don't remember the artist. Somebody really, really famous who would probably cringe at the idea of the painting being treated in this fashion. 

And finally, the epitome of the worst of the museum photos - the "I was there" shot.  Thousands of these horrible selfie things are taken in museums all over the world every day. We were laughing so hard when we took this that my stupid hat (scores 0 for looks, 10 for warmth) almost flew off.

1 comment:

  1. I see the little "scratching" angel (in the sculpture)- but what the heck is the other one doing?
    I wonder what was going through Parmigianino's mind when he painted the little bratty angel?
    My favorite is the tourist with the hat! Priceless!