I noticed a theme as I wandered through the galleries. I greeted old friends hanging on the walls of the Art Institute. But I also like noticing what speaks to me on a particular visit. I noticed this time it was water. Bodies of water. Usually waves, a turbulent ocean. Was my nostalgia for the coast coming through in the art I was drawn to?
I noticed Renoir’s Seascape. Renoir is not really known for water paintings, but that’s what spoke to me—the soft blues and greens of this Impressionist. Huh. I moved on.
Then there was Jules Dupré’s Barks Fleeing Before the Storm. Normally, I don’t think this painting would have grabbed me. It is dark and foreboding. Maybe something was going on with me and water.
I later found myself standing before Monet’s Water Lilies. Well, at least this attraction seems normal. This painting is light and airy, a typical favorite of even those with a passing knowledge of Impressionism.
Then there was the dark stillness of Sohlberg’s Fisherman’s Cottage. A dark Norwegian scene…night descending. A certain calmness drew me in. I wanted to go there. Live there.
In Rosenthal’s rendition of an episode from the Arthurian legends, Elaine lays stretched out as an anonymous boatman ferries her body to Camelot. The boat slowly glides through the nearly still water. Myth and unrequited love intertwine in this painting, exuding an air of fatalism.
Whether turbulent light waves, dark storm-foreboding waves, ponds of water lilies, a dark body of water surrounded by evergreens at twilight, or a journey of the dead over calm water, water was speaking to me that day. Perhaps I was missing the coast more than I thought.