The Power of Art


As I walked through the exhibition I suddenly saw, from perhaps 15 feet, a painting I had never seen and did not recognize. It was a large oil painting, perhaps six feet wide, but I was not thinking about those things. I was feeling, and I was feeling awful. I was feeling that I had been punched in the stomach, but the pain, the hurt, was psychological and emotional as well as physical. It was real. I knew it came from the painting, but I didn’t know why or how.
—William Kloss, The World’s Greatest Paintings

I’ve been watching The Great Courses’ The World’s Greatest Paintings, and Professor Kloss chose Hans Hofmann’s To J.F.K. – A Thousand Roots Did Die With Thee for his final masterpiece. Kloss says everyone’s list of favorite masterpieces will be different, but he had to include this picture on his because it moves him so much. Hofmann painted the picture in 1963, right after JFK’s assassination that November. Kloss first saw it in 1976, 13 years later. The artist had managed to pierce Kloss’s heart in spite of the distance in time and space.

Have works of art ever blown you away? For me it hasn’t been painting, except for a Renoir I saw at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. I think it was a full-size reproduction rather than an original, and I haven’t been able to find an image of it on the web, but I still remember the color and how alive it seemed. That was 21 years ago.

Sculpture moves me more. I still remember my feeling of awe when I saw Michelangelo’s statues in Rome and Florence over 50 years ago. Also Rodin, of course. And, not quite a world masterpiece, the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University. It was built shortly before we left in 1974, and we visited it again around 1998. I don’t remember the pieces in it, mainly the feeling of walking inside a sculpture, a sculpture with spectacular views. Remembering it still fills me with wonder.

What about you? What would be on your list?

Thanks to Evan, tammy, bikehikebabe, Rummuser and Ursula for commenting on last week’s post.
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21 Responses to The Power of Art

  1. Rummuser says:

    You may perhaps remember, Urmeela was an artist of some renown but gave up her career to concentrate on our son full time as I was in a traveling job. Due to her background I have had the pleasure of meeting and spending time with some of India’s most talented artists a couple of who are still in touch with me.

    For me however it was and still is,

  2. Mike says:

    I don’t really have a list of favorites. So far as sculpture being moving, at the end of June, we visited a small park in Tulsa, the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park . It’s dedicated to the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. Three sculptures there are based on the photos from that period.

  3. bikehikebabe says:

    I wrote a really good comment here. Was well done & took a long time. Then Bitch on the Blog’s post came up with a ding & I thought I’d take a peek. Eeeeeek!– I quickly went back here & my words were still there but only for an instant. Then GONE!!! Oh well. Bottom line– I could write a long post, NO–a book about this subject of art.

  4. bikehikebabe says:

    P.S. I hadn’t published it because I had a mis-spelled word that Speller couldn’t imagine what I meant.

  5. bikehikebabe says:

    P.P.S. I saw a sculpture with two left feet. The sculptor must have told the apprentice to do the other foot. HOW? he asks. Make it like the other foot. So he did–exactly.

    I just got back from my hike. I saw a diamondback rattlesnake on edge of trail. It left when I startled it. Snakes don’t chase you down to bite you like some people think. LOL 😀 Only if it’s coiled, you don’t see it & you’re going to step on it. This one was the coloUr of the dirt. He was born with the color of his environment–excuse the sidetrack.

  6. Ursula says:

    That’s ok, Cynthia. Blame me. My shoulders are broad. My waist is tiny. Where I live there are no snakes. No wonder I don’t live in paradise.

    Jean, there is no list. I stand in awe of many…


  7. Jean says:

    Thanks. I’m wondering if bikehikebabe would have that on her list too.

    Thanks for telling me about it — I just looked it up. That’s a great use for art.

    I hate it when that happens. Are there one or two things that might be at the top of your list?

    I’ve heard of people getting bitten by rattlers when climbing and putting a hand on top of a snake. When I was hiking in Bandelier with friends once we saw a big one slithering away. It wasn’t threatening at all, but the fellow who saw it first, still coiled up, had been more worried.

    I used to take a snake bite kit but apparently they don’t recommend them now. When a friend and I were hiking from the Stone Lions (a couple of hours from civilization) we talked to a ranger about snake bites. She said never use a kit. What were we supposed to do? Put ice on the bite and go to the emergency room. Yeah, sure. It was in the height of summer and the temperature was in the 90’s. Where exactly were we supposed to get the ice?

    Do you get to see them very often? I can get awed by little things, which is nice, living out in the boondocks as we do.

  8. Mike says:

    We’ve seen several rattlers over the years and they always have slithered away from us — then we kept on our way down the trail.

  9. bikehikebabe says:

    Yes I love the Rolling Stones. (see Rummuser’s youtube video) I forgot what a cute bunch of boys they were back then.

  10. Jean says:

    That reminds me of the Pecos National Historical Park. The signs said something like, “Please stay on the trails. Don’t disturb the rattlesnakes.” Needless to say, people obeyed.

    On the other hand when I grew up and someone saw a rattler near the house my uncle would kill it just in case. And later when they built houses down in the valley, the snakes would come out when the humans watered their lawns. The snakes had been there first, but the snakes had to go. The story made Time Magazine, which is how we heard about it.

  11. Cathy in NZ says:

    Once, I studied Art History and learnt more about the artist, the genre and other such things, I found many art-works I enjoyed because I knew more about them…sometimes, it can be a whole essay as such as to why a sculpture has been created… – hope this reveals an interesting human sized sculpture. There is one parked near a walkway at University – doesn’t have a white shirt but is definitely from the same mould 🙂

    there is a whole story about these characters…which somehow makes them more “human”

  12. Cathy in NZ says:

    no, it comes to a page of his works…it’s Kapa Haka (Pakaha) – 3rd one at top…

  13. Jean says:

    Thanks for the link. I found the piece.

    I love history and biographies, too. Often more than the work of art itself, I’m afraid. I’m enjoying this Great Courses series, and a lot of it is because I like the professor and enjoy understanding how he sees things. He’s very human as well as scholarly. I’m also learning more about composition, use of color, etc., which is fun.

  14. Evan says:

    For me mostly pottery – I have no idea why. Esp. the zen ones. Perfect in their simplicity.

    There are some paintings I love. And some music Bach’s Bouree and Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring and blues.

    I saw an exhibition of the pieces Picasso kept for himself. I was blown away by how much he engaged with his medium – from oil paint to sheet metal.

    Of the painters Miro and Matisse are probably the ones that speak to me most directly.

  15. Evan says:

    Jean, if you love sculpture I think you’ll want to see Ron Mueck’s stuff, if you don’t already know about it.

  16. tammyj says:

    the national cowboy and western heritage museum in okc.
    standing in front of Frederic Remington’s sculpture of
    “the end of the trail.”
    an indian brave on his horse. with both their heads down.
    they can go no further. they are at the end.
    it is staggering in its ghostly white meaning and scale.
    it is huge. i never fail to cry when i see it.
    and also the wall size murals around the room at the same museum. they’re by Wilson hurley and they’re simply scenes of the massive west. you feel you could ride into them.
    normally i’m not a landscape painting fan… but these are amazingly beautiful. maybe i’m just thinking the west right now. recently watched ken burns film on the northwest passage!

  17. Jean says:

    Thanks for sending me the picture:


    I can imagine how impressive it would be in real life.

  18. tammyj says:

    oh monk! thank you! that is just beautiful here.
    hard to tell its scale by the picture but if you were standing there your head would come a little into the brown base of the picture just up from the yellow surround.

  19. Jean says:

    The nice thing about showing the windows and the view beyond is it does give a feeling for how big it is. Thanks again for sending me the picture.

    Here’s a picture by Raphael from the Great Courses that grabbed my attention. It looks better on the DVD than here, but you can still get a feel for the luxurious fur:


    The pose is similar to Mona Lisa’s, but I like this picture a lot better.

  20. tammyj says:

    this one reminds me of standing before a picture from one of the renaissance painters… i just couldn’t stop staring at it.
    the pearls. the folds in the velvet. … just as the wonderful folds and texture of the material in this picture.
    the skin tones…
    such breathtaking beauty. and to think… they had to even MAKE their own paint first!!!! incredible really.

  21. Jean says:

    I agree, some of those pictures take your breath away.

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