The Shy Museumgoer


It’s polite to stare

Titian, detail of "Venus with a Mirror" (c.1555)
Detail of Titian’s Venus with a Mirror (c.1555)

When we take the time to explore a masterful work of art, we carry with us something we didn’t have before. We take with us the artist’s view of the world. Why is this valuable? Because it increases our ability to understand a wider array of human experience. Thank you for reading The Shy Museumgoer. I promise to regularly add new stories . . .

  • George Bellows: Last stop, 59th Street

    George Bellows: Last stop, 59th Street

    The scale of the lone tenement building under the new Queensboro Bridge seems odd. Is it real? Or is it a ghost, urging us to remember all the homes that were bulldozed in the name of urban expansion and the human interactions that once took place inside them?

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  • Leonardo’s brazenly feminist portrait

    Leonardo’s brazenly feminist portrait

    During the Italian Renaissance, women were portrayed as ideals, symbols, and allegories — even in their own portraits. Then one day Leonardo da Vinci and Lisa Gherardini said goodbye to all that.

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  • St Jerome’s home office is fit for a genius

    St Jerome’s home office is fit for a genius

    For centuries, people had their portrait painted to reinforce their role in society. It had little to do with our modern, lonely desire to feel seen for who we really are. Do we still believe a person can be described from a single viewpoint? Or is multimedia replacing the official painted portrait?

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  • Alexandra Exter: One night in Kyiv

    Alexandra Exter: One night in Kyiv

    In her day, Ukrainian artist Alexandra Exter was one of the brightest stars in the European avant-garde. Her friends and colleagues included Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Fernand Léger. We know so much about them. Why do we know so little about her?

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  • Titian paints lust with eloquence

    Titian paints lust with eloquence

    The Roman goddess Venus is depicted nude in works of art because she represents the lofty ideals of spiritual love and divine beauty. Not Titian’s Venus. She represents something more carnal.

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  • Pissarro’s unforgettable conversation

    Pissarro’s unforgettable conversation

    When the Prussian Army began its march on Paris, Pissarro packed up his family’s belongings and shuttered their house in Louveciennes, a small town near the capital. It would be safer to move away than to stay. Here’s the harrowing story at the center of his painting “The Conversation, Louveciennes.”

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