As part of the Art, Literature, and Contemporary European Thought program, we got to visit the south of France. I have to admit, I had no idea what to expect from the trip besides the fact that I would be seeing a lot of art museums. While I would have also been happy with just that, we stopped some other places along the way that definitely put things we were learning about into perspective.
For example, our class ended up visiting Arles. I knew almost nothing about the town before visiting besides the fact that it was the place that Vincent Van Gogh fled to escape the “evils” of Paris. While there, we went on a little tour of all of the places Van Gogh painted while there. Many of these paintings we were able to see in person the week before at the Musée D’Orsay.
First of all, seeing these paintings in real life instead of on a computer screen was an eye opening experience. Getting to choose where you stand in relation to the painting as well as see all of the details of the pieces the way they were supposed to be seen completely changes the way the viewer takes in the painting. Seeing the actual places Van Gogh painted was another experience entirely. While a lot has changed in Arles since Van Gogh lived there, such as the house he lived in being destroyed in World War II, it is surprising how much of the everyday world can still be seen in his pictures. Being able to stand where he stood and see what he saw revealed aspects of how he viewed the world I would have never seen otherwise. Seeing the ways Van Gogh played with color, shape, and texture to turn what he was looking at into an experience and not just an image helped me understand how art is capable of conveying different ways of seeing the world.