The husband showed me an episode on White Collar – a drama series based on an FBI agent who takes the help of a conman he arrested to solve art crimes. A fascinating series, it soon caught the fancy of the household primarily because it is one of the few shows that we can watch with the young son in tow. Of course, modern television has taken gripping drama to an art, and we found ourselves enjoying the show together.
In one episode, the protagonist goes to great depths to explain how he found a particular piece of art was counterfeited. The light of the shadows in the painting, he says, were at an angle that could only have been possible if the museum lighting were shining at that angle, not something that Rembrandt or Van Gogh or Picasso (I forget which artist) would have had to contend with in his work of art.
I remember being awestruck at this. Of course, art aficionados would not find it marvel-worthy, but I did. My simple mind appreciates the beauty of a good work of art, and it stops there. The critical eye, the keen observations, they all seem a work of wonder to me.
It was, after we had watched this episode that we bundled up and drove through the lush hills shining in the sun-dappled valleys and plains of California for a short trip to the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The Getty Museum turned out to be a wonderful outing for Covid times. It was not crowded, and the artwork was good without being overwhelming.
As I stood in the Van Gogh section, I could not help wondering how that many works of Van Gogh were in Getty’s Museum when we had seen numerous others in galleries across Italy. Apparently, in his last year of life, confined to an asylum for mental illness, Van Gogh created around 600 masterpieces.
I snapped a picture of the Irises, and made my way down to the gift shop afterwards. It was there that the awe of what we have done dawned on me, There were mass produced pieces of merchandise with the exact nuance of the irises on purses, scarves, tote bags, books and magnets.
What is the true worth of a masterpiece? I am sure there are hundreds of paintings, true masterpieces, that do not go on to have this enduring sense of appeal and capture the imagination of generations.
I tried fumbling some of these sentiments to the children, and the children piped up in style, “If Neal Caffrey tries to steal it, it is worth it. If not, forget it!”
Regardless, the urge to paint is encouraged by Van Gogh himself (according to the Internet)
“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”– Vincent Van Gogh