Thursday, October 24, 2013

What If Renoir Had Listened?

"Romain Lacaux", 1864 - Pierre Auguste Renoir
“He has no talent at all, that boy! You, who are his friend, tell him, please, to give up painting." ~ Édouard Manet speaking to Claude Monet, on Renoir's incompetency.

When I was a little girl, my Mother used to take us each weekend to the Cleveland Art Museum. You see, she was an artist who wanted so very much to share with us her life's inspiration. Sundays were always a day of rushed anticipation, stopping off just long enough to pick up my Grandfather - the Museum gardens, it seems, proved a fine place for a gentleman to enjoy his cigar, uninterrupted. Swisher Sweets were always his favorite.

In contrast, the stone marble hallways felt cold and uninviting to a child of my age. At just seven years old, I hadn't yet understood the fuss - particularly, as I was constantly being hushed.

sigh...who brings a child to a SHOOSHING place?

In time, I grew to hate these outings - the bother of giving up my Sunday outside time, was just too much to ask of one little girl. Forced against all will, I gave quite the fight - foot dragging, and perfectly timed shrilly whines were my specialty.

Oh...and didn't I make sure my disapproving scowl was fully visible inside my Mother's rear view mirror?

How could I have ever possibly known then, just how very much this time would mean to me now?

To offset my upset, I used to race between the exhibit rooms - my shoes clomp-clomp stomping about in an unbridled protest against the Museum's stifling decorum...my Mother's "Just you wait .." glare having no impact on the 'little stinker' part of my soul.

And then one Sunday, during my customary game of 'chase tag', it happened...I ran smack sharply into the grimacing growl of a rather large Museum Security Guard man. 

"Doomed...," I thought to myself...imagining a life looking outwards through the confinement of my bedroom and watching others at play.

I was too terrified to look up. Instead... I stared flatly to the floor, taking in the pattern of scuff marks along the sides of my well worn Hush Puppy shoes. I thought I was done for sure - my face growing hot under the exertion of keeping all those 'big tears' inside.

"She's watching you," he said...kneeling down, smiling and pointing to a painting of a little girl on the wall. And then, he winked and walked away.

He was pointing to Renoir's painting, "Romain Lacaux" - a little girl, just like me, but with details so brilliantly painted that she nearly came to life on that canvas.

And her eyes...they really did follow me....as I watched, transfixed, and testing the view from every room angle.

From that moment on, I couldn't wait to get to the Museum on Sundays...knowing that I had a 'new friend' waiting to watch me play.

Isn't it amazing how quickly magic can be pulled from dread?

Each week, the Museum guard watched me standing before that painting - watching...wondering. Through the weeks, he took my hand, so to speak, to share with me the magic contained within all of the other pieces of art.

Why, did you know Monet was nearly blind when he painted his "Waterlillies"?

(whisper) "That's what makes it so beautiful..."

And, the Knights in Shining Armor? Not so very tall, at all...

In time, the Museum became a place I very much adored - with never enough time to learn all of its secrets. I grew up in those exhibit halls, taking in the beauty that suddenly surrounded me - wanting so very much to learn of Creativity's inspiration.

I think that's what my Mother wanted all along.

And, the little girl on the wall? She's still there, to this day - making friends with all the other little girls stomping through the halls.

And, I? I am so ever grateful to her for sharing this gift of perspective with me. As, I think perhaps, this may have been the very beginning of my 'creative lifestyle.'

It wasn't until years later that I learned, that Renoir was greatly discouraged from painting - considered, not nearly 'good enough' to keep up with the counterparts of his day.

Imagine, if Renoir would have listened...what a shame that would have been.

Why, a little girl might not ever have been stopped - just long enough for imagination to find her here.