Visiting an Art Museum

Matt White admits that in visiting an art museum, there is a temptation to rush through the galleries, trying to see as many works as possible in a short time:

It is a temptation I have succumbed to many times in my life. I have gone to art museums thinking that my visits were only successful if I saw a lot of paintings and took a lot of pictures. However, all those times of rushing through hallways, frantically looking left and right, was I actually experiencing art? Yes, I was seeing more art, but my focus was on getting from place to place, not being with the art, not having a relationship. Art has the capacity to stir deep emotions. But these emotions don’t arise unless a little effort is put forth.

Have you ever considered that you can have “A Relationship with Art”? Understanding the distinction between “seeing” and “experiencing” is the first step in appreciating art, but that deeper step of relationship with the work may be a step many of us skip. But we lose out on the emotional power of art when we rush our way through a gallery instead of savoring and even praying with art.

For stories of how art has inspired creative expressions of faith, check out the Arts and Faith series at Loyola Press.

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  1. Four days after the death of my husband following a year or no visits to art museums I visited the art museum… to be with our friends. We have visited many art museums across the US and Europe together. The paintings had truly become dear friends and family.

  2. I had a professor in grad school (for music, not visual art) who gave us an assignment to go to the art museum and pick two pieces of art. We were to spend a while in front of them, attempting to draw them as slowly and carefully as we could, and then write about our interaction with it. Mine ended up being dialogues the arose during my time copying the works of art, and I still seek them out when I visit the MFA.

  3. Of c0urse y0ou can have a relationship with works of art; or, rather, the artist through his work. Just watch Sr. Wendy. There have been times I went to a museum to see the work of a particular artist, but found there was something lacking, either in the work or in myself. When that happens, I cut myself loose, and wander the galleries; sort of like a mobile sponge.


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