Malibu Trekker @ thecityedition.com ----- Post #7 - June 9, 2010

Escape to the Getty Center Museum

Cont. from Page 1

It's too bad that the general population regards paintings, ceramics and sculptures as the same kind of elite mental masturbation in which the opera is viewed. This is a mistake. You get a much better handle on the past with these contemporaneous visuals than you do by reading a history book. Art can bring to life the sweep of time in three dimensions. And the artifacts frequently deliver a lot more than just a decorative touch.

Landscape with Calm by Nicolas Poussin, 1650.

For instance, with that volcano smoldering in the background of the photo above, the scene sure doesn't look that calm. A painting like this allows you to step into the mindset of somebody living in the past. You realize that our ancestors were really not as backward as we've been taught to believe, what with all those multi-story buildings and sense of esthetic. And there's the caliber of craft represented in the museum pieces themselves. One day when I visited the Getty, there was an exhibit explaining how bronze sculpures were made. I'd never really thought about the process before, and it turns out to be pretty ingenius.

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Recreating the Juggling Man. Rough-cast with clay. Then a wax cover. Then bronze (copper + tin) is applied at the foundry.

In another hall, there was a collection of books from the Muslim world, dated to the time of the Ottoman Empire (which lasted about a thousand years). The graphics and calligraphy of these books is awesome, to say nothing of the complex details about science, architecture of some other field being imparted. Crusaders and templars hauled tons of these manuscripts back to Europe during the Middle Ages, and they inevitably kickstarted the Renaissance. This particular exhibit explained how the scientific knowledge of the ancient world was gathered up into vast libraries and translated from multiple languages, especially Greek. That enabled the Ottomans to capitalize on the inventions of other cultures, rather than just re-inventing them over and over. And the manuscripts included works from Plato and others that would never have otherwise survived the march of time.

Returning to the paintings, the Getty's permanent collection includes works from Rembrandt, Renoir, Van Gogh, Monet and all the rest of that famous crew. The skylights in the buildings sometimes cast an invasive glare on these scenes, but a few came out alright when I photographed them . See for yourself:

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Left top: Coast View of the Abduction of Europa by Claude Lorrain, 1645. Right top: Venus and Adonis (partial) by Simon Vouet, 1642.

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Top: Shepherd with Flute. by Giorgione, 1508. Right: The Music Lesson by Johannes Vermeer, 1662.

Lest I leave out Mr. Van Gogh...

Irises by Vincent van Gogh, 1889.

While what you see here is but a tiny taste, the Getty Museum provides more than enough of an appetizer to satisfy anyone hankering for a trip to the Louvre. And did I mention that the admission is free? (I guess I did...) Just think of all the money you save not going to Paris. Although now that I consider it, that city can be relatively affordable in the off season. Hmmm...

Paris Trekker, anyone?

M.T.


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