What’s the first famous painting you could recognize? When I was a kid, reproductions of Pinkie and Blue Boy were everywhere. Strangely, these two paintings were made by two different artists in two different decades, but a collector brought them together, and copies were sold as a pair ever since.
I think my first exposure to fine art was when I pored over my parents’ very ornate Bible which had a glossy photo insert of religious art by Rembrandt, Michelangelo, et al. I knew the names of paintings like The Mona Lisa, The Birth of Venus, and Girl with a Pearl Earring for as long as I can remember. Did anyone else have the (now out of print) board game “Masterpiece”? It was billed as an art auction game and you tried to make money selling famous paintings – or forgeries. I’m sure I learned a few artists and paintings names from it!
For the most part, art wasn’t something I studied, it was something I did – whether drawing, painting, or messing about with my Etch-a-Sketch and Spirograph! I did have one a-ha moment of art instruction, when our 5th grade teacher taught us to draw using perspective. What a concept – it was like finding out the world isn’t flat!
As a teen, I developed a keen interest in modern art and design, and was a geeky kid who spent hours in my bedroom dripping paint onto a papered floor a la Jackson Pollock. When I was in my twenties, I was a children’s librarian and I had a flurry of interest in the golden age of children’s book illustration, and in popular poster prints like The Kiss.
To this day, I have only seen a handful of art exhibits, but I have seen a few shows – Monet and Rothko were stand-outs. The experience of being in a room with these works is very moving. (When I went to see Monet’s water lilies with my kid, we were typical mom-and-tot tourists, while art aficionados sat on the benches weeping in the presence of these paintings.)
My tastes have now swung back to abstract expressionism, cubism, surrealism, bauhaus, pop art, op art etc.
What are your first memories of famous artworks?