For a generation that is being raised to watch movies on their iPhones it is important to remember how much is lost when viewing great works of art online instead of personally standing in front of them. I do not mean to suggest that great works of art cannot be viewed online. To the contrary, it is one of the great benefits to people the world over that so many paintings and sculptures can be seen by people who will never get the chance to see them in person. Yes, something is lost seeing great canvases on a small digital screen, the same as three-dimensional sculpture on a two-dimensional plane. Yet great works of art can lose a little something and still be great. They are, after all, great.
This was easy to see at the Rodin Museum, where I was mesmerized by the long, drawn face of one of the Burghers in Rodin's piece The Burghers of Calais. The man's face was thin and bony, his beard extended his chin to a point, his nose protruded out and down as if it were more finger than nose. His eyes were set deeply within his face. He looked worn down. His life had been hard. It was unmistakable. In a futile attempt to capture that look, I snapped a picture. But the picture, flattening his image, makes his face look rounded, satisfied, and soft. He has become something else entirely.
Veronese's The Wedding at Cana was actually dropped in 1992 when an attempt was made to raise it higher on the wall. The 1.5 ton painting fell over when one of its supports gave way. The canvas was torn in four places. Sadly, this happened just two days after water dripped on it from a leaking air vent. All of this after it successfully survived WWII by being rolled up and moved around in a truck as it was hidden from the Nazis. One more impressive feature of these massive paintings is the fact that they have been copied from time to time. David's The Coronation of Napoleon, the 20 by 32 foot painting seen in the center of this photograph I took at the Louvre, once hung at Versailles, but was moved to the Louvre, then a full-sized replica painted by David himself was rehung at Versailles. This kind of dedication to art is difficult to understand. The first painting took him almost two years to complete. Imagine if Peter Jackson, once completing the Lord of the Rings movies, shot them over again. Sure, it can be done, but couldn't David have simply made a copy of his painting that only measured five by eight feet? That would still have been impressive.
So make sure you take time to visit a museum in order to see works of art as they were meant to be seen. You might not be able to make it to the Louvre, but there are many great museums scattered throughout the world that hold remarkable works of art. And if it takes a little time and money to get to one, it will be worth it. You might just be amazed at what you are able to see.