Du Haut des Bas
oil painting by Elsa Bluethner, BC, Canada
Enjoy the past comments below for A veil of tears…
Excellent letter, Robert.
I was surprised as hell when I burst into tears at the Van Gogh exhibit at LACMA back in 1999. The emotion conveyed, the color, the sheer volume of beauty, I guess, got to me. Caught me so off-guard! I loved being so incredibly overwhelmed by the art.
I Divo got me going pretty well the other morning. I have been told that squinting aids perspective sometimes. I can’t say the same works when peering through water.
Robert, O yes, take me to a gallery of Art, watch the tears fall. I find that great works of Art are very spiritual and when you are a artist yourself, who has struggled and you see the masters work, the feelings can swell up and break loose. My husband walks pretty far ahead of me, but that’s ok I prefer to cry by my self!
Tears…have had them while working on a painting also, although not often, but in that rare case, I think because it had suddenly taken me back to the actual place again of where I had been painting and to the awe and inspiration I felt when first seeing the beauty of nature at that particular place.And, yes, I too have been at an art museum and found tears streaming down my cheeks from the magnificent works hanging on those walls. Unable to stop. Feeling crazy and embarrassed with actual sobbing and trying to be quiet. I could only think…”IF only to have met each artist, wondering what were they like, what were they thinking?”
My Dad always said my kidneys were to close to my eyes. Just reading about you visiting that room in Ottawa to see the sketches choked me up! The Group have a hold on me.
I have often walked up to fellow “weepies” in museums and had great discussions about the art we are viewing…it’s a good bonding experience and lets you know you are not alone in a sometimes very isolated profession.
Where would I be were it not for my art and my artististic temperament? Thank you, Robert and Lynne, for the words and for the beautiful music, and it’s Vivaldi for tears for me, too, and that aria is spine tingling. I think tears save us from grief and they also revive us towards happiness oddly enough. No matter how many tears I shed at a recent loss, I was not assuaged in my grief, but, when I painted my sorrow, I found the answer. That is how I coped best, by giving pictorial truth to my innermost sadness. The tears alone were not enough. The artwork salved my every sorrow and I became grateful again for the ability to paint my love and sorrow so as to honour the memory of my brother’s wonderful life and special connection to me, with whom he shared his deepest love for music…especially Vivaldi, Robert…how perfect your choice. Hope the photo of Goodbye Donald appears just to show what joyous grief can look like when interpreted in paint. Thank you for the opportunity of sharing this facet of life and love.
It seems I have spent my life looking at art, making art, and loving art, yet I was already past 50 when I first made it to the National Gallery in London. I was travelling alone, and with no plan I wandered the galleries.When I happened upon Rembrandt’s self portrait my heart swelled and my eyes filled with tears. It took only a moment of recognition. Van Gogh’s work had the same effect on me. I don’t know if it was the actual paintings that moved me so much as it was the realization that I was doing something I had dreamed of. After looking at these works in books for so many years, the beauty that came through in the painted surface was simply a matter for the heart.
The recent comments about portraits and emotions struck a chord as i did a portrait of my dead wife some time ago which, although it made me cry while I was doing it , helped immensely to accept the fact that after 35 years , she was really gone. Some of the crying might have been because I am not very good at portraits , having done only a couple, and I really wanted this to be special , it wasn’t easy!Even after 17 years, it still brings tears to my eyes. and a smile.I recommend it for anyone who has lost a special someone, as a means of relieving the sadness.
I don’t think I have ever written to tell you how much I have loved your email newsletter. It has helped keep me connected thru several years of caring for my very sick husband..when there was no time for painting on a regular basis…just little bits of time snatched here & there. The beloved husband has passed away now & I do hope to get back to some more serious work this year. But thank you for all of your words…I’ve loved them.As to the comment I might add on the subject of tears while working on a painting or observing such…I think that is the soul’s response to the sheer beauty of what is being taken in thru the eyes…and ears, in the case of the music. Sometimes I hear a soprano reach the heavens with her voice & the beauty of it is overwhelming…the tears come in tribute to the gift…
You have left out the most important word for artists or anyone.You mention the word excitement. But, one can have brief moments of excitement. You can experience excitement on an amusement ride, a challenging game of tennis or the achievements of your children. The magic word is PASSION. The twinkle, the spark that completes the package and answers your life’s purpose question…
You wrote: Esoterica: I had tears last weekend in Canada’s National Gallery. I was by myself in the room where the Group of Seven sketches are exhibited en mass behind glass. …. Curiously, some of those sketches always seem better than the last time, and some others don’t seem as fine as I remembered. …. Of the gentlemen exhibited there, only their strokes remain, and somehow, after all these years, those strokes draw tears.I am always drawn to these fragments of a life lived long ago. I look at Albrecht Durer’s etching of a cat. It is part of a larger work, but every time I see that cat, I think 500 years ago someone loved this cat, fed her, scritched her behind the ears and she purred. And I think I like Durer all the more because clearly he liked cats! Last month I had the joy of going to the Getty Museum and saw pages from some of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, and discovered he sketched dragons! To think that I was looking at the actual page that his living hand made marks to create…. just astounding and awe-inspiring! My nose was but inches from the case–glasses off so I could see more sharply (tho only if I was six inches or less from the glass!) each track of the pen on the page. So many times we see only the masterpieces, and it is good to see and remember that the masters practiced and doodled and had to feed the cat, too.
Occasionally I have been gobsmacked by paintings. I have found upon reflection, that, safe in their frames, they enabled me to symbolize existentially puzzling aspects of my experience. They remain my favorite paintings. The only time I actually burst into floods of tears was while walking through the FDR Memorial in on a brisk sunny day in Washington DC. Turning a corner, I came across these words, writ large on huge chunks of stone tossed chaotically about on the ground: “I HATE WAR”. Seeing them afforded a cathartic release of many feelings that must have been silently, wordlessly accreting since the death of my father in Libya in WWll in 1943. I was four years old. At that age I had neither the words nor the capability to understand what his death and heroism meant, and would continue to mean to me, throughout my life, until the day the feelings found their way out of my heart. I finally understood my mothers tears.
Twice I was brought to tears while looking at art: The first time was when I was 12 years old and I went to the Metropolitan Museum in New York and stood at the foot of the staircase and saw all the art. I thought that if I went to the Met every day, nothing bad could ever happen again. The second time was again at the Met, probably that same day, and saw Rembrandt’s self portrait. Additionally, there is a third time. My first time in Rome and seeing Michaelangelo’s Pieta (before the shield) brought tears again. These experiences influenced my art life; I knew I could never be as good as they were, but I sure could give it a try.
I certainly have done my share of crying witnessing the sun rise and set, at museums , at my easel and at performances of various kinds. Something touches and moves my soul so deeply when seeing beauty, hearing or watching an incredible performance that all I can do is cry. It’s a divine moment when I am closest to the real Creator and part of the big picture of all artists and viewers past and present. For a split second I feel one with the Universe. It’s a beautiful thing.
The tears came for me last week, when my old, unsold paintings were removed from storage to be moved again this time, to the basement of our new home in Richmond.HUNDREDS…of them, and although I have also sold hundreds, seeing these again stirred such powerful emotions, mostly connected with death. Many are reminders of failure, disappointment and rejection, feelings I do not entertain often. I liken finishing a piece as giving birth, when and if it is sold, launching my “child” to a new and hopefully rewarding life. These that have come back to me are the “unwanted” children, or the “spiteful” children, haunting me and reminding me of years and years of creation. It’s like dying repeatedly! I do not paint to sell, I do not paint to please others, I paint to communicate, to discover, learn, grow, to explore my own humanity and to reach into the deepest parts of myself. The paintings that come back must be put away again!
It’s “vale of tears,” meaning valley of same.
Not just tears, but chills, as I listened to all the Pavarotti videos that were in the clickback video and below it.
I once began to sob during a massage (my one and only) when the masseuse was working on my left hand. Absolutely nothing happened with my right. I’m an artist and I’m left-handed.
Interestingly on my elevator ride to work today the fact that men have smaller tear ducts than women was advertised on the small flat screen TV that we now watch (replacing the empty space that we used to stare into). I am wondering if we have smaller tear ducts though, not as a result of genetic material but rather, from lack of use.
I must admit that standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon does it to me every time. Looking out at such grandeur and magnificence leaves me awe struck. I seem to connect on a spiritual level with those that have come before me and those that will one day follow. Painting the canyon in plein air a hopeless endeavor that I have tried many times. The best I can do is wipe away the tears and simply respond to the natural beauty before me. Perhaps that’s just the whole idea of painting.
Perfect timing for this letter. Thank you both for sharing deeply.I find myself in tears lately during moments of beauty that catch me by surprise. Not only do I enjoy relief as I take in moments of peace, delight, joy, perception…I also realize how bright these moments shine during heavy times. I deliberately hold a positive focus, do my best, and hopefully bringing a smile or two to those I encounter during my day. These moments shine ever more brightly because I have not worked for them…they are a gift, a break from the feeling of having my shoulder to the wheel just to survive rather simply. They are a reminder of grace, and help me to stand up a little straighter and let go of some of the baggage of worries in today’s world. Thank you again for a sweet sharing. Painting, for me, is one door into appreciating the beauty of the world around me. Now…how to capture the 4 baby rabbits hurrying across the narrow road that winds between my house and studio…
This is the first time I’ve ever read about getting tears, while doing a paintingOMGThank you for this one,,This is sooo great to read this,,,because this has happened to me and more so now as I’ve been painting more since I started to paint in oils in 2005,, When I search for something to paint after I have finished my last painting and as I start on my new painting and I really love what I’m doing the tears just start to flow…. and reading this letter today gave to me great Joy…and that I’m not alone in this…
I daily experience these tears of love, as I call them, since they can be about such a range of emotions. Its wonderful to experience the power of the tiniest bud to demand such delight of emotion that makes me feel the love. Ill never forget how a few years ago I was overcome with such a warm feeling of love when doing a self-portrait and I suddenly saw my mother, who has passed on, looking at me. I felt so close to her knowing that as I sketched and was coming closer to a likeness, her face was there in mine. As I continued to sketch this likeness of my mother would come and go. The sketch turned out okay, but the experience of sketching was extraordinary.
Quote: Robert Frost “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”After all the centuries… the brush strokes remain…. like rows of mountains seen by the eagles… Lights against the edges of the rolling surf…. Years have left me… but these old eyes of mine flood with tears at the sight of twisted, beautiful strokes. I stand and let my curtain fall as I am reborn… In the blue greens and crimsons… Moving across the canvas, more powerful than words.
Perhaps this artist needs to get a life. All self-portraits are ego strokers…if you don’t critically like what you see in the mirror? don’t paint it… its a wasted effort & a wasted canvas…which no one would buy anyway.
For those of us who 1- are not Canadian or 2- have not been to this exhibit, can you please elaborate?“I had tears last weekend in Canada’s National Gallery. I was by myself in the room where the Group of Seven sketches are exhibited…”
I recall my first trip to Europe due to years of raising children alone and teaching after their Father’s death, and the death of their Step Father. Your first overseas trip is an emotional event and my tears were the result of the first vison of a very large Monet painting of sail boats at the Gilbaken Musem in Lisbon. It was a first for one of his original works; and,I must have picked up Monet’s emotional message he communicated in the work. I have had the same response many times since. A great painting will communicate and be absorbed into the viewer’s emotions. This does not always occure, and may not for others, there seems to be a message you sometimes connect with from the artist.
I kind of cried when I took a self portrait ..of me to our local gallery..and it sold! Wish I had it back..haven’t done another one since..maybe I will cry because I didn’ t have as many laugh lines as I do now..great letter..thanks.Doris
Linda – chill out!Libby – have you heard of google?
The First time at the MET in NYC with the “Meditation Pond” by Monet…. tears poured out of me. Again in Giverny I felt the same deep heavy tears of emotion with this visionary. Somehow, there was opening in my heart with respect,… joy of seeing a great painter’s experience of discovery, the love of color mixed with my own humbleness and gratitude to be in the presence of canvas and paint…imagining the passions, frustrations andknowing-ness…of the inventor……and belonging to that moment. Also I thought of all the eyes that had viewed Monet’s work for years….they seem to rest…to linger along with the art. Alas, my fickle heart….there are others who also stir the medley of emotions.
My daughter, Cynthia’s first husband died of cancer at age 33 and I wanted to paint his portrait in pastels for her to give to his parents.I did pretty good holding back the tears while I was sketching his image (full length) on the paper. I convinced myself to first get all the painting completed except for his face and hands. The photo I was using had him standing in his dress air force uniform and I seemed to still be OK while painting his body and uniform. No tears yet. I then worked on his hair, he had beautiful dark brown curly hair. However, the moment I tried to paint his face or hands I would burst out crying and could hardly hold the pastel stick in my hand. I felt like that I was actually touching his face with every stroke and every time I tried painting on his flesh, hands, face or neck I would start up the crying and sobbing again. So, I turned the painting around on my easel. It sat there for several weeks and one day I decided to try working on his portrait again. During this rest and down time I read several inspirational books and listened to beautiful music. I knew if I was going to be able to finish the painting I really did need to get myself mentally prepared. Then I thought I should create an atmosphere in my studio that he would enjoyed if he was here in the flesh. I asked my daughter for some of his favorite CD’s and I played them. I sat every photograph we had around in the studio and I brought in a coffee pot. He loved coffee. I poured myself a cup and fixed a cup with just the right amount of sugar and milk in it and set it on the table beside a comfortable chair for him. So, all the while, I was listening to his music, talking to him and drinking his favorite coffee I slowly turned around his portrait and told him everything I was doing in preparation of laying out the pastel colors I wanted to use, plus I needed his help so I could finish the portrait. He was a gifted artist and he spent many hours drawing while under going chemo. I know most people will think “well the ole girl finally snapped”, but I swear I felt his presence and his hand guided mine while I finally finished his portrait. When I thought it was completed and stepped back I suddenly felt such a wonderful strange calmness and relief. I called my best friend and neighbor to come over to see it. She arrived immediately and tried to sit in “his” chair to view the painting and I immediately asked her to please sit in another chair. I didn’t want to break the spell I felt was still in my studio while we three were admiring his portrait. She and I sat there drinking his favorite coffee, listening to his favorite music and crying our hearts out! Each of us are here on this earth such a short time and some of us are gone too soon but, this portrait will hang in his parents living room for the rest of their lives and Tony (June,1965-February, 1999) will not be forgotten.
Yes, tears do come to us as we give ourselves to our labor of love and hope it will be meaningful to others. Robert, you are one in a million of painters and your spirit is so in tune with nature and our creator, it is no wonder you suffer tears of joy and love and distraught all together. How can we ever put on canvas the vast beauty and recognition of God’s creation. All we can hope for is the words “Well done good and faithful servant”. Ours is to glorify His Creations and His love for all of us.
I did a self-portrait with brush and ink one day and when standing back to look it over, though it did not elicit tears, I was astounded to notice the resemblance it bore to my father. I usually do not see that resemblance but there it was.
I have had paintings stop me in stunned paralysis in a gallery but no tears; definitely a flush of appreciation to realizing a great work. Oddly enough, Ive cried with music but not visual arts. We should have an emotional reaction to art!The many self portraits Rembrandt left us with are a telling depiction of his life and a great artist. Looking into that face over time, ego was the last thing the artist was trying to convey. Weve all seen self portraits that struck us as painful certainly not an exercise in narcissism. I painted myself because my children asked me to. At age sixty, I am far happier with this self portrait than if I had done one at thirty. I will also paint my seventy year old husband this year, also at the urging of our children. I would much rather paint an aged face than youth and beauty. Self analysis is a necessary part of the process and maybe that is why Linda reacted so strongly? As I neared completion of the painting, it was a bit arresting not to have my image move, as in a mirror. I removed myself from the intimacy of the self portrait and approached it as a commission.
Yes, it’s a sudden glimpse of truth that makes me cry. Sometimes, you can’t explain why because you don’t even understand what you see–like the song by Pavarotti, not many of us can understand the Italian words (I can’t) but somehow the song sings true.
Oh Robert, The tears I’ve shed while experiencing art! If I could only share the multitude of emotions that I have learned about over the past 30 years, while painting and teaching.I will agree with everyone on how we can be brought to tears ,when standing before great works, and as for painting and being moved by music… I can only describe it as bringing my soul to meet my conscience and exploding through my hand. I can cry just remembering the experiences!! What brought me to reply to your letter, was your response to the question, “What is the most important word or words an artist needs to know?” Several years ago, I too, was faced with that question in one of my weekly classes. The student worded it different, but I knew what she was getting at. I pondered several days over this, and thought to myself, if there was time for only thing I could share with someone, and put them in the right direction to study and produce any art, what would that one most important word be? Well Robert… there is only one word… VALUE Now, I know, every artist reading this can visualize those little blocks of grays all lined up, and yes, we all know the importance of pushing your values in a painting….but, what are we really doing? We take a plane, that is void and blank. We then start adding values, with lines, strokes and color, each one representing some kind of emotion. We then have given life to a void. With each value we add, we bring more life to that void. The image we have produced becomes more real with each value we add. Now, relate this to raising a child, or doing a self portrait….what more powerful word do we have in our vocabulary than value? I have taught many beginner students, and the first thing I do, is to help them to see values. With each value they are able to add, they see more value to their work, and each time they see more value in their work, their value of themselves grows stronger and stronger. They feel more alive…..of more value! How can you go out and start painting the values of a beautiful scene, and not start placing more value on the beauty before you? Think of the prisons… maybe they are full because no one took the time to show them the values. You can go on any of the prison sites, and see thousands of beautiful pieces of art. Maybe they are starting to see their values better. To me, there is nothing more exciting than to watch someone see more value in things or people. But… there is nothing more sad, than someone that starts losing their values. Take a look at some of the masters works, and notice how they over time started losing values little by little. Van Gogh was a good example, notice in his self portraits, how he just started eliminating the values one by one. What do you think this says about his life? I could go on with this for days, weeks, or even years, so Ill close for now with one last statement… it is my hope, that more artist will help others see their values! www.daviesstudio.com
So many of us … including you and I, share so many commonalities in our philosophies… our musical tastes… our emotional sensibilities… our love… pride and joy in the accomplishments of our children… our personal triumphs and tragedies…and too many other aspects of our “being” to consider here. Yes… we all share the same plane in Time. Yes… we all have a passion for creating art. Yes… we all demonstrate a symbiotic relationship of interdependence with the Natural World. Together… we form a powerful network of conscience and commitment to both creating… sustaining… and accepting responsible stewardship for this beautiful Planet Earth.“Art Matters!”
For Marie Turner Thank you for sharing your story. One more person has cried for your son-in-law.
Sharon, thank you for your comment.I had another really good cleansing cry when I wrote my comment about my son-in law and his portrait.
While no one who knows my bio could possible describe me as testosterone challenged, none the less, I cry during motion pictures. I’ve heard this is common: crying at sad moments. But that’s not what happens to me. I cry when the dynamic tensions and conflicts are resolved, when characters finally overcome their fictive obstacles, and at small and large triumphs. It’s sometimes embarassing, when the lights come on. I’ve not cried before art, but I’ve been stunned standing in front of “The Bar at the Folies Bergere.” And I’ve been enthralled by music. I don’t precisely know what makes me react differently, but I have a feeling that crying over the arts is more common than most imagine.
I am thoroughly convinced that we know much more, in terms of direct knowledge, than can be conveniently accessed, or understood. The conditioned mind perceived so much. The unconditioned mind perceives that which is often clouded by habit, custom, and expectation. The conditioned mind generally dominates our perception, and largely determines how we think, and react. In fact, our thinking is predominately reactive, and therefore indirect, with respect to ‘reality’.The emotional response, sometimes resulting in crying, suggest to me, a break through; a break from the conditioned haze that constitutes the incomplete, and therefore mistaken sense of truth that characterizes experience. The gulf entertained from this kind of insight can indeed provoke strong emotions; a realization of truth denied, and all of the possible ramifications therein. Yet from this experience can arise the need to seek a deeper understanding of the necessity to explore the validity of direction perception. The subject of direct perception for the uninitiated is difficult to detail. Yet, this capacity is inherent, but usually stifled in most adults. It is inborn, and active in most children. Therefore, give yourself permission to, in a sense, be like a child; curious, open, and innocent. In short, cultivate the quality of mindfulness that transcends reactive thinking. Seek to still the mind. Develop the habit of reflecting upon the very process by which you derive opinions, and conclusions. Decide to become your own authority as to truth, understand, and insight. Seek the ground from which thought originates.
Wow – and i thought something is wrong with me…. the look i got from the security guy at the gallery was rather unpleasant – but if so many of us cry looking at paintings ( it was Van Gogh’s in my case) he should be already “immune” to the wet outburst of emotions! Thank you, now i know that it is Ok to shed a tear or have the “wow unbeliveable, wow this is increadible” expression and not to try to hide it under stiff lip, cool mask or a shrug.Looking at art is a big deal!
“I don’t paint the eyes until the very end — I don’t think I could bear their stare.”Brilliant! Straight to the Art Quotes Archive, editors! You decide under which sub-heading.