Do you believe in the power of art? Masterpieces such as Munch's <The Scream>, Degas's <Star>, and Monet's <Impression: Sunrise> contain the other side that we didn’t notice. 'Healing Art Museum - How Pain Became a Masterpiece', based on psychology, shows the other side of masterpieces that touch our hearts and helps us to immerse ourselves in artists and their work. The book sets up a virtual space called 'Soul Mind Institute' and talks with a total of 15 example artists, including Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Frida Kahlo. It also introduces how their physical and psychological troubles were projected into the work. Through this, it touches the emotions of the readers, leads to empathy, and allows them to have time to communicate with the artist so that they can be healed peacefully when reading the book. In this book, I will describe the stories of Renoir, Monet, and Kahlo among the 15 artists.
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Artist who paints happiness, Renoir
Pierre Auguste Renoir was a French Impressionist artist who painted the brightness of subjects. He treated art as a medium that gives happiness, not a place for contemplation, and mainly used Beauty, Beast, and Baby (3B) as subjects. The reason he draws ‘happiness’ is a Defense Mechanism. A Defense Mechanism is a tendency to turn away from reality by intentionally avoiding negative reality and emotions. Because of this Defense Mechanism, he suppressed his emotions while experiencing his poor circumstances and chaotic 19th century France, such as the Bobol War and the Paris Commune. Even though he had a lover, he couldn't express his thoughts and exhibited a Defense Mechanism, such as pushing himself away by asking him to meet someone richer than himself. That is why he projected happiness, joy, and comfort into his own paintings. He hoped that the viewer would relieve his worries and rest in his works.
Renoir had captured cute subjects that make you feel calm, such as <Julie Manet - Girl with a Cat>, <Sleeping Cat>, and <Lunch on Boat Party>, as well as images of people who enjoy comfort. However, in 1894 he suffered an attack of rheumatism and stiffened his fingers. Nevertheless, he drew <Portrait of Arlene Holding a Dog> by tying his brush to his hand and challenged sculptures. Renoir did not give up to reality and continued his art activities with the theme of happiness. He did not get frustrated in difficult situations and thought and acted positively, so he was able to happily devote himself to his work until the end of his life.
Father of Impression, Monet
Claude Monet is a representative French artist who opened the beginning of Impressionism in the 19th century. And he got out from beautifying painting to depicting subjects realistically. He watched Edouard Manet's <Lunch on the Grass> and was fascinated by using natural light and realistic depiction, and put nature on canvas, which was the beginning of Impressionism. In <The Path Between (Forest of Fontainebleau)>, which he painted in 1863, he studied the colors projected on the shadows, and the shadows created by nature to absorb the surrounding colors to create a more subtle tone rather than just black. Later, Monet met a model named Camille through the introduction of his fellow painter, Bajiyu, and drew <Camille (Woman in a Green Dress)> and entered the Salon exhibition. At the same time, he fell in love with Camille, but passed through a troubled period, such as leaving France due to difficulties in family circumstances and the end of the Bobol War. Afterwards, he returned to Paris in 1874 and opened 1st Impressionist Exhibition to reveal his painting style to the world again. During this period, he presented <Impression: Sunrise> at the Impressionist Exhibition, completing his own painting style of ‘capturing the ever-changing light and quickly sketching it’.
However, the ‘general public’ did not approve of Monet and the Impressionist artists. At the time, critics said of Impressionism, 'The brushstrokes are not cool. The composition is messed up. It's just a wallpaper painting.'. Of course, Monet's paintings didn’t sell well, so the family situation did not improve. Eventually, in 1879, Camille died due to deteriorating health, and Monet drew a picture called <Camille on her deathbed>, depicting the process of waiting for the woman he loved to die. Afterwards, he remarried and continued his life with another woman, but continued his art activities while experiencing the ‘Zeigarnik Effect’, in which he intensely remembers his first experience with guilt and longing for his muse, Camille.
What's important is the unbreakable heart, Kahlo
Frida Kahlo, a leading the 20th century Mexican artist, started art by painting a self-portrait while wearing a cast after a car accident. Sensing her charm in her paintings, which began to evoke her psychological pain caused by her accident, she mainly drew her figure paintings, because she felt the power of her art to penetrate the inner world of people in figure paintings.
After recovering her health, she met Diego Rivera, a progressive Mexican painter, in 1928, became a model for his mural <Arsenal>, and married him the following year. However, this marriage caused another pain to her. Kahlo experiences psychological trauma (stress) due to Rivera’s womanizing and hidden personal life. She suffered a miscarriage in 1932 and she also experienced physical trauma. She melted these memories of this time into <Henry Ford Hospital>. Her paintings expressing her emptiness, her spine damaged by a car accident, her baby, and the restoration of her relationship with Rivera become one of Kahlo's representative works. Kahlo has since repeatedly experienced her psychological trauma and captured her anger at Rivera in her paintings. She said <Only just stabbed a few times> was a good way to explain her stress, namely her PTSD.
In 1946, she was confined to a hospital room for the rest of her life because of ill health and chronic illness, had her leg amputated, and also had a failed spinal surgery. Nevertheless, she showed her will to move on, taking responsibility for her own destiny, by painting her <Her Tree of Hope, Be Strong>.
15 artists, including the three painters mentioned here, compose this book. They have one thing in common that they have sublimated their own ‘pain’ into art. If you understand and sympathize with the pain of the painters and read the book, you will find stability in your mind and get enlightenment. If you want to learn about life and deeply understand the works while listening to the story of famous works born of pain, I recommend you to read the book 'Healing Art Museum'.