The 5 Types of People You Meet in Museums

The Louvre

The two days that were rainy/overcast in Paris, I spent in Museums. I spent the first day in the Louvre. And let me tell you… it is the most gigantic museum in the world. The Louvre is what used to be the Royal Palace before Versailles was built. It’s a pretty sweet place to have a museum because the building itself is practically a museum with a lot of the original paintings on the ceiling and (of course) gold foiling on the walls. The Louvre is so huge that it’s overwhelming and exhausting. I loved the ancient greek statues – yes, the Venus de Milo is here, and I liked some of the art there. But unfortunately, so much of it is the didactic pre-renaissance and renaissance art that, suffice it to say, it’s not my favorite. I kept thinking “Oh! I’ve studied that piece before!” only to realize that no, it just looks the exact same. You can only see 1734325 Madonnas & Crucifixions before you want to rip out your hair. However, I did enjoy the Spanish art – and I was proud of myself because I was able to identify an El Greco painting from across a room without ever seeing that one specifically before. Yes, my Spanish Art History class has taught me a few things here. :)

The Orsay

The last day of the trip I spent in the Orsay Museum. The Orsay is housed in an old train station – a really awesome old building. It’s an impressionism, post-impressionism, pointillism, surrealism museum with a few other things thrown in. I can’t even being to tell you have much I loved it. This is my absolute favorite type of art, and I even discovered a few other artists that I wasn’t really aware of before. And still saw a lot of famous Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh paintings. Dr. Munson always told us (in Civ Arts) that it’s one thing to look at a painting on a screen, but it’s another to actually look at it in real life. Sooo true.

But in all this… I discovered that you can pretty much divide all museum visitors into just a few categories.

Venus de Milo

1. The people who are genuinely interested in the art. They come with guidebooks, art books, and read about the art and artists while they study them intently.

2. The people who want to say “I’ve seen XYZ.” That would be the hoards and hoards of people that surrounded the Mona Lisa (underwhelming, at best) just to take a photo and move along. I don’t think they evenlooked at the painting itself. They simply elbowed their way to the front of the crowd, snapped a pic on their iphone and moved on.

3. The people who zoom around the room, reading the info plaques and ignore the paintings. I can’t tell you how many times I was looking at something, and someone would come up behind me, look only at the plaque and move on. Why bother having the painting there?

4. The people who think the most famous people are the best artists. In the Orsay, I heard someone say “Oh, look, there’s another Monet over there! Let’s go look at it!”  It’s too bad they missed the equally beautiful painting by Pissaro right next to it.

Interior of the Louvre

5. The people that spend the entire time taking pictures & video. Instead of taking in the paintings and watching them, they instead take a photo of it and move along.  And why would you take a video of your museum tour? Are you really going to watch that later?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m no art expert. And, I hope I don’t come off condescending by writing this. I wish I knew more about art before I went to the museums. And I felt bad if I only looked at a painting for five minutes. And, I know you can’t really see a painting in five minutes. But I didn’t have a lifetime to spend in either museum.

So, if you ever go to Paris… I suggest allotting your time to only the things you care about. And then taking the time to really appreciate them! And forget your camera. It’s better to experience the art than to concentrate on taking the best picture of it. :)

Phonecian Sarcophagi in the Louvre

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5 thoughts on “The 5 Types of People You Meet in Museums

  1. So true!
    We went to the Cleveland museum of art a couple weeks ago and they had a Rembrandt gallery. It was, of course, full of people reading the plaques and moving on. I was only struck by maybe 3-5 paintings. The rest were “eh” (like the Mona Lisa).
    BUT. Later on I found a Van Gogh I hadn’t seen before (one of the poplars paintings). I kept going back to it because I loved it and needed to see the colours more and remember them better. It was right in front of my nose and I could see the brushwork and almost feel the texture. It was just amazing.
    Congrats on recognizing the El Greco. :D

    You should come back to PA sometime soon.

  2. Yes, but when you are an old woman and your memory no longer readily reproduces every sight you’ve seen and every experience you’ve had, had you clicked just a few photos of your favorite paintings, you might find yourself enjoying them for the pleasant memories they would stir. The photograph, though unable to capture the beauty of the painting, might be able to remind you of the beauty of the painting that your eyes once saw. This assumes that you are taking in the painting through your eyes rather than through your camera viewfinder, in the first instance.

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