Over the weekend my mom and I went on our first visit to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I say first, because we will most certainly be going back…often. It is among the top 10 oldest and largest museums of contempory art in the nation (but they have lots of classical works too). And it’s free admission. Not only are there 4 floors full of all sorts of art, but there’s also gardens, 100 acres of nature preserve with trails, and the 1930s home of the Lilly’s (of Lilly Pharmaceuticals) that gives tours throughout the day during summer-fall. We had a few hours after the stamping convention, so we spent it admiring European art. They have a very nice collection of English, French, Flemish, Spanish, and Italian works. The oldest piece we saw was a painted crucifix from the 1380s! There were lots of paintings, but also decorated furniture, altars, jewelry, and books. There’s an exhibit on textile arts that I’m interested in studying next time. I’ve been watching some DVDs on art history – The Story Behind the Art – and a couple of the artists that are featured in the documentaries were at the museum! It was really neat to observe artwork by artists that I happened to know something about. The following are pictures of some of my favorite pieces. I love still life paintings, especially those that have a mix of lovely and “unlovely” objects in them. These were very popular, and the presence of the”unattractive” elements, such as spiders, lizards, skulls, and such were meant to show the uneasy balance between the decay of time and death and abundant life, exemplified by fruit and flowers. (Now don’t ask me why spiders, lizards, and other such creatures depict death and decay – it seems most unfair). This particular still life has a little lizard, mouse, and hedgehog nestled down below the flowers. I read that this artist liked to incorporate forest-floor dwellers in his paintings – I’m all for that! The world would be a much nicer place if people painted more hedgehogs!
I was also amazed by these illuminated books. Called “book of hours”, they were used as prayer/meditative guides to direct the mind on a specific aspect of prayer. These examples were elaborately decorated and painted with gold leafing in the border. I’ve loved illuminated script since I first watched Sleeping Beauty as a girl, and thoroughly enjoyed studying illuminated books in my Medieval history class. It was amazing to see some with my own eyes.
What was also very special about the museum is that there were no barriers around the artwork. You couldn’t touch, but you could stand right up next to the paintings and observe the brushstrokes and clumps of paint on the canvases. An incredible experience! I can’t wait to go back.
Blessings to you,