Monet on Boxing Day

The weather today reminded me of why I choose to come to Istanbul every Christmas. It was warm enough for a light sweater, bright and sunny, the sun reflecting off the water, mostly quiet, fishermen throwing lines into the bosphorous… okay, it isn’t quite all weather, but it all contributes to the feeling of weather- to that ambiance that surrounds and permeates and is quite classically Istanbul. Scott and I took a minibus down to Istinye Bay, and then walked in the sunshine along the bosphorous down to the museum that is currently housing Monet. Now, I am not particularly big on art defined by fame, so I did not expect to think much of a museum collection of anyone, even Monet, but I figured that when an entire collection is in your city, and free to see, it is a shame to not at least put in the effort for a strolling gander. I was quite surprised by how much I actually enjoyed, not just the paintings, but the entire experience of viewing a museum collection.
My exposure to art is rather limited. I hate the snobbery of it, and the in/out group feeling it inspires reminds me too much of gender conflicts and the LGBTQ determination to be elitist in their out-styles. (I can say that, only because I am in the LGBTQ crowd, ostracized by the competition to be ‘most gay.’ But that is nothing new. What was new today was my fascination with the art. First of all, the gallery that we went to (ssm) was amazingly well set up. It is an old mansion that was dedicated to art by the owners, who specialized in calligraphy. The top floor is filled with antique, very lavish furniture and paintings, and the calligraphy sets. The basement houses Turkish work, and the middle floor was dedicated to Monet, including plenty of historical and personal information. They didn’t have the full set, but most of it was there, including so many variations on water lilies. I skipped quickly through the first room, dedicated to portraiture, and moved into the second room, which had smaller and medium sized landscapes. Boats, water, trees, islands. The colors and the strokes on the paintings were fascinating. I developed a game of moving further away from the paintings to understand them, then  moving in close, and squinting until everything became shiny. It was fascinating. I never knew that impressionism worked like a magic-eye picture. Things popped and glowed and there were so many levels to each painting. I don’t think that any of the reprints that I have seen have captured even half of what the paintings portray in real life.  By the second room I was already emotionally affected by the atmosphere and the art. In the third room there were his larger paintings. Some of them just popped and glowed with neon streaks of color that I didn’t even imagine possible. I was enthralled. By the time I moved to the final room I was quite prepared for the beauty of the painting that most moved me. It bordered on a spiritual experience and I can honestly say that I was able to project and find myself in that painting, a flower bathed in yellow light, trailing my spirit freely with my partner by my side.
In the final area we talked about the repetition in his work and one of the most impressive things about the experience was actually the dialogue between the paintings. Any one picture, taken out if context, could not be as impressive as the leading story that we had been immersed in, for just a short hour.
This is the first time that I wish I could go back to a museum, for days and weeks, and lose myself and find myself over and over in these paintings. They were magnificent.

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