Did you happen to read the Google Doodle about Wassily Kandinsky, the Russian credited with being the first purely abstract artist? He was born 148 years ago today but began his career as an artist in the early 1900s. Much of his work was condemned by the Nazis as “degenerate art” and destroyed in 1937, although in 2012 one of his paintings (shown below) sold for $23 million! Do you like abstract art? One thing I will say about Kandinsky is that he believed vibrant color can produce an intense sensory experience in the viewer’s soul, and I totally resonate with this. I love color! What do you think of his paintings?Isn’t it true that so often, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure”? I look at these incredibly expensive paintings and think, “Looks like child’s play to me.” But, I really didn’t intend to write about Wassily Kandinsky today. It’s “Travel Tuesday,” and I wanted to share about visiting the Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, which boasts the most comprehensive collection of Dali’s work in the world. My brother had to talk me into going, tho, because I’ve really never been a fan of modern art. Of course, many are, including my son Jon. I remember perusing the Museu Picasso in Barcelona with Jon and being amazed that Picasso could paint such an artistic and realistic picture of his sister’s first communion at the tender age of 15! What happened to him over the years of his long life? Two world wars and despair? To me, his pictures became disjointed…ugly. What makes his art the most sought after in the world today??Jon tried to point out some of the brilliance of his creative Cubism, but I was a skeptic, thinking more along the lines of Picasso’s comment to a friend concerning the above 1910 “Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahweiler”: “What would have become of us if Kahnweiler hadn’t had a business sense?” Through February16, 2015, there is a special exhibition of Picasso at the Dalí Museum…rarely loaned works from more than 25 international museums and private collections. I went last month, and if you’ll be in the area, you might enjoy going, especially if you can make it to one of Joan’s 3:30 tours. She’s a peerless docent who’s been volunteering for nearly 30 years and makes each piece of Dalí’s work come alive by explaining the fascinating symbolism in both the themes and minute details. Dalí’s best known work, “The Persistence of Memory,” suddenly became more than just a series of melting clocks…it was Dalí’s way of trying to express Einstein’s theory of relativity…an idea that came to him as he watched a piece of Camembert cheese melting on a hot August day! 🙂 Everything in his pictures represent something (some are almost prophetic), although much of the symbolism is so esoteric that only friends, art dealers, and those who bought his art understood the messages…often because he’d explain!
Like Picasso, Salvador Dalí was classically trained and as a young artist showed great promise, although it looks to me like the horrors and disorientation of World War I and II caused a spiritual disintegration. He became a communist and an anarchist,and over the course of time, Dalí’s paintings became less and less “real” and more and more “surreal.” Dalí took pleasure in Dadaism, an “anti-art” movement rooted in Wassily Kandinsky’s theoretical abstraction and totally detached from the conventions of reality. He liked to shock people, and I dare say, much of his work caught me off guard. Each picture made me ponder; some reminded me of Alice-in-Wonderland-style fantasies, and some were totally grotesque surprises that made me wince.
I left the museum with much more appreciation for the genius of Dalí, Picasso, and other Cubists, Surrealists, and Dadaists. The hands that smeared bizarre graffiti across the pages of our 20th century were doubtless full of existential angst, but they also painted brilliant messages. However, these questions still remain: Are the messages true? And, are the works beautiful? They certainly are wildly popular today: Picasso’s paintings are selling for astronomical prices…the most sought after in the world at the moment. But, the pictures these artists paint leave me with an ominous sense of impending doom. In reality, God promises our world a future restoration and holds out the hope of a spiritual kingdom of light that will last eternally. He doesn’t want us wallowing in disembodied despair. He wants us to think on the bright and beautiful! Look up, our redemption is coming. 🙂
“Finally, brothers [and sisters], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).