Art Savored through an Artist's Eye

Article excerpt

NORMA, my wife, had gone back to the rooms where the French Impressionist paintings were hanging, while I stood in front of one of Rembrandt's self-portraits, in the National Gallery in Washington.

The expression on the clever Dutchman's face in this work is at once warm, sly, humorous, and touched with self-knowledge. He manages to smile without a smile, and I expected him to wink at me at any moment.

Up close, one sees the brush strokes and the ingenious blending of colors, all of which cohere inexplicably to lead one to feel the painter's mood, that of a slightly detached but warm and bemused observer.

This was one of those hundreds of rewarding moments that masterful paintings have given me. Had Norma not said yes to my big question decades ago, I doubt if I would have found my own way into the pungent world of pigments, varnish, brushes, canvasses, and other painterly details.

A trained artist and painter herself, my wife has brought me along on a delightful learning trip. After our 30-plus years of visiting exhibits and of gallery-hopping, I feel almost an insider.

It's all been by hand, so to speak. That is, we often go through art exhibits holding hands, wife leading husband patiently and eclectically into the practical side of what it means to study and create visual art.

It's never a lecture, but a series of surprising delights, exclamations, and frequently laughter.

Through Norma, I meet other artists, some of whom have shared generously their concerns, hopes, histories, methods, and even their ideals. …