I consider myself a visual learner. Rich colors especially stand out in my memory. As I strolled through the galleries at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts during our tour of Richmond, Claude Monet’s painting mastery and lamps designed by Tiffany Studios captured my imagination.
When I laid eyes on Monet’s Field of Poppies, Giverny (1885), I felt transported to spring. The red-orange poppies burst out from the cool green fields, creating a river of warmth. The small French farmhouse at the center of the painting is absorbed by the flowers. Contrast is what makes this painting so memorable. That is what caught my attention.
In a different way, the VMFA’s collection of Tiffany lamps excited my eyes. The exhibit of both floor lamps and table lamps showed off their iconic stained glass shades. The light bulbs the curators chose to use in the lamps made the shades’ floral motifs glow softly. I associate Tiffany lamps with comfortable elegance. Their nature-inspired decoration and rich colors make me imagine flower petals reflecting the red-orange light of a sunset. In other words, their color is not blinding, but soothing or pleasant. I can imagine what such lamps looked like when they were first purchased, beautifully illuminating the rooms of wealthy Americans.
Perhaps my interest in color draws some inspiration from the founder of Winterthur Museum, Gardens, and Library, Henry Francis du Pont. One quotation of his that is quite familiar to Winterthur Fellows is “For me, color is the thing that counts more than any other.” Color often served as a guiding principle for H. F. du Pont’s object groupings in the museum and floral arrangements in the gardens. When guiding visitors through the rooms at Winterthur, I reference du Pont’s interest in color to help interpret his peculiarities as a collector and his horticultural vision. There is no better example of his color interest than Winterthur’s gardens in the springtime. The contrast of Monet’s painting and the rich floral motifs of the Tiffany lamps reminded me of a Winterthur spring.
Seeing such colorful artwork at the VMFA is one of my fondest memories of the trip. It transported my imagination to a familiar place. I can’t wait to go back to Richmond and revisit such vibrant masterpieces!
By Matthew Skic, WPAMC class of 2016