I love art museums and can spend hours in one. Observing an exhibit, learning about it's history, reading up on the art and the artist.
Here's something I've learned over time. Don't skip the audio tour.
For every piece of art that has moved me, I've found that it's backstory is even more interesting and moving. The audio tour gives you the backstory. It places you right in the middle of the action!
Here's one of Monet's paintings that I absolutely love - "Women in the Garden". You'll never guess the backstory.
It's a beautiful painting, no doubt. The ladies in their summer gowns, the flowers, the play of light, the leisurely atmosphere it creates...it's all quite lovely. And it really draws you in.
But that's not why I love it. Here's why.
When you look at it, you imagine this is a scene the artist was actually observing. Or in the least, a scene he had staged, with models, as was the practice.
Quite the opposite.
Monet made this painting in the backyard of a dingy apartment in Paris. He was all of 26 years old and really poor. He had no money to buy canvases, let alone stage a scene. And there were creditors on his back!
Yet, here he was, making this ambitious 70 x 70 inch painting (that today sits in one of the most respected art galleries IN THE WORLD!)
His companion Camille modeled for all three female figures in the painting. Since he had no money to re-dress his model, he copied the dresses from fashion plates of the time. He created a trench in the backyard so he could lower himself when he was working on the lower half of the painting, and not lose perspective.
He had little, yet he did so much with it.
Knowing this story makes you see it in a whole new light. And it makes all the difference in appreciating it.