I wanted to write a new blog post but was suffering from a lack of inspiration and was having a hard time finding something worthy of your attention. Giving up, I took out my phone for some more procrastination when it hit me: my screen saver! Let me explain. My screen saver consists of an image of one of Czech artist Alphonse Mucha’s paintings: L’été (1896). Not only do I love the image in itself and its style, its bold outlines taking nothing away from the lightness of the colours, but it also reminded me of a quote from Walter Benjamin’s book The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1937):
“Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be…”
Alphonse (Alfons) Mucha, L’Été, 1896
Ever wondered why people continue going to art galleries and museums? They can just look at a picture of a painting to see it, can’t they? Of course, I would be the first to disagree with such a statement; it is definitely very different to see a work of art in person than on a picture. But think about it. I’ve heard some museums are thinking of uploading super HD quality images of their paintings on the Internet (and there surely already are some to be found) so the argument of “but look at this Monet! You could never see all the details of the brush strokes with just a simple picture of it!” is irrelevant. No, the main reason why it is really different is because of its aura, the fact that this is the real one. I’m not criticising, I, for one, find it fascinating to think about how the artist actually handled it and that he was looking at the very same picture, wondering whether he should add something to it or not… But still.
Leonardo da Vinci, The Virgin and Child with St. Ann, 1508
Have you ever been to the Louvre? If so, I’m curious to know if you actually got to see Mona Lisa properly when you got to where it was hanging? I can personally say I hardly did see it because of the number of people standing in front of it. Comparatively, The Virgin and Child with St. Ann (1508), also exposed at the Louvre, doesn’t seem to spike the interest of that many people…
We don’t really go to the museum to see the painting but to see THE painting.