A Room with a View


Wandering through the McNay one day, I stumbled upon a room at the end of a long hallway which immediately caught my eye. The warm, inviting presence of light gave off an ethereal awareness that looked different from the other rooms in the McNay, which was perhaps why it intrigued me. In it was where I first noticed a bronze head of Medusa glaring down at me, oddly contradicting the ambience of the other figures and paintings that surrounded it. Her facial expression was accentuated by creasing lines across her brows and forehead, which indicated a strong forceful look in tone. Having no eyes, but rather black craters in their place, only reiterated her anger, as if possessed. As Medusa let out a silent scream, I couldn’t help but notice the detail in her configuration of hair, which consisted of snakes whose mouths were enveloped with light. They gave off an eerie, yet effective feeling which resonated with me. Still, she was a very striking first impression of my entrance into this little room of wonders.

Moving out of the doorway and further into the space, I noticed soft, soothing color coming from an overly ornate, almost Rococo-like picture frame. Written beneath it was The Serenade by Auguste Renoir. The use of his color scheme – soft pink, cream, and purple – along with the dim lighting gave this painting a soft dynamism. The painted women appeared as though to be looking in different directions, off in their own individual worlds. One was hovering above, glancing half forlornly, half disinterested at the woman sitting next to her. The other was looking down at the hovering woman’s hand, which was placed in her lap. Judging by their attire, it looked unclear as to what social status from which these two women might have come from. Both seemed to be wearing dresses; one which was draped around the shoulder, while the other appeared to be strapless, neither in any defining detail. They seemed to look carefree with one woman holding a flower in her hair, the other, a headband. Renoir’s attention to details in the background were rather vague and out of focus with his use of broken brushstroke to convey the light and movement of the figures. Colors blending, while looking very dreamy and beautiful, also made it hard for me to make out where they were. I would venture to guess they were sitting in a parlor belonging to one of the women.  It almost seemed to be done on purpose in order to show that being able to enjoy life’s little pleasures with one’s friends wasn’t dependent on social status. The two women painted could just as easily have been seen on the upper echelon of society as well as the lower end depending on how one wanted to see it.

Shifting to the right of Renoir, I pondered the painting next to it, which was rather large and titled Sister of Charity. It depicted a nun along with Tahitian men and women. The subject matter used the neutral color palette of browns, greens, and other earth tones. I found that the artist was Gauguin. In the painting, the nun was seated on the floor, looking onto the Tahitian men and women humbly. One Tahitian woman, also seated on the floor cattycorner to the nun, appeared to look apprehensive, not to people around her, but directly as if she was looking right into the face of the artist painting her. Another Tahitian woman who stood above her also seemed to be looking at Gauguin, rather shyly. Everyone else did not notice the women in the picture, but rather focused in on the others around them. The background of the painting was rather faded and out of focus, which only drew further attention to the individuals instead.

Looking around the room, I searched further to see if I could make out a pattern in contrast between one artwork to the next.  I happened upon a seemingly small, quiet yet peaceful painting. It appeared to shy away from view, not wanting to be recognized by its simple wooden frame. I looked closer and noticed a very distinct impasto technique of brushstrokes. The paint moved along the fields like waves. I noticed two women: one dressed in white, the other in deep purple, both wearing hats. I looked even closer. This painting seemed to be on fabric! It was by my favorite artist, van Gogh. I was captivated by its simplicity and drawn even more to it by its tranquility. It came as no shock to me to see his humble painting in the same small room as Gauguin’s, both who once were heavily influenced and inspired by Primitivism while they were alive. There was even a bit of friendly competition which still was apparent when viewing them. It was almost as if they were competing with one another for  my attention by being placed in close proximity.  It was safe to say that both artists influenced each other in their own ways only to go on and expand to countless artists as well as art aficionados into today’s art world.

I pondered the little room into which I stepped, seeking some truth in these miraculous and enticing works of art, ranging from bronze heads to simple works on fabric. I noticed just how amazing this place was and how many wonderfully intricate pieces were found, even in the smallest corners, if one knew only to look for them. As I stood and kept fixating on it, I heard the distant sound of voices coming closer. Others have discovered my newly acquired hiding spot. Not wanting to create a disturbance, all I could say as I snuck out was, “Goodbye, my little room with a view.”   (970)