For a long time I liked to define myself as a person who loves everything classic – music, movies, art. I was very proud with me speaking freely about old masters’ art – Leonardo, Micelangelo, Botticelli, Caravaggio, Goya, etc. I took a great pleasure of educating myself about it from books like Kennet Clark’s “Civilisation”, E. H. Gombrich’s “History of art” and the biographies of amazing artist such as Walter Issacson’s “Leonardo da Vinci”.
Not that I ever thought that modern art is not an art (thanks God). I just really liked projecting myself with a man of classic taste. Until one day the chance brought me to Lisbon alone. And I had to find something to do there. I decided that visiting the modern art centered Museu Coleção Berardo will be a good idea. I quickly educated myself about what I will see there with Will Gompertz’s book “What are you looking at?” and this was the moment that changed forever the way I was experiencing art.
I already explained to what extent Gompertz’s book has broaden my understanding of art. When I set my foot in Berardo’s permanent collection the feeling was like walking across 150 years of history that coincided with the way Gompertz himself told the story of art in “What are you looking at?”.
Pre-impressionism, Impressioism, Post-Impressionism, Primitivism, Cubism, Futurism and so on in the span of 150 years until we reach Postmodernism and art now. One thing lead to another that lead to another. Just as the evolution of biology, the evolution of art is also connected in so many ways and variations.
The last 150 years of history, not only in art, are times full of events that shaped the civilisation in the way we see it today. By reading Gompertz’s written history of modern art and then going to a physical space that represented the art itself that those 150 years brought, I felt fully immersed in the meaning of John Ruskin’s words:
Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.John Ruskin
The world we live in is complicated and will probably get more and more complicated. In times like these that one always wonder what’s real and what’s not, art is the most trustworthy medium of them all. History is a subject which we learn from school books, then maybe in university and from popular books. But then comes art. If we want to feel present and connected with everything that happened before us, I think that art is inseparable part of the world that we should immerse ourselves in it.
Walking across the halls of Berardo Museum and remembering the words of such a pronounced art critique as Will Gompertz gave me the feeling that I made the deepest penetration in history as a subject I ever did.
Read my review about “What are you looking at?” by Will Gompertz here.