You can draw your own inferences about this, but when I decided to spend the day at the Getty, I'd completely forgotten that it was the Valentine weekend. (Not that I have anything against Valentine's Day; on the contrary, I love glitter and lacy white doilies and hearts and pink tissue paper and anything trimmed with marabou.) Nor would I have ever imagined that every single couple in Los Angeles would think of the Getty as a romantic pre-Valentine's Day outing. However. As is regrettably so often the case, I was wrong, and the lines of cars on Sepulveda proved it.
And upon reflection, why not? What better way to celebrate love than to look at images of love?
(Mars and Venus, Allegory of Peace, Louis Jean François Lagrenée, French, 1770, Oil on canvas)
In spite of the lines of cars--and the attendant delays--and the crowds (consisting in the main of couples, some very affectionate, some rather affectionate, and some not at all, such is life and the vicissitudes of love and relationships, God bless us all), I really did not mind being wrong about this.
There was something beautiful about being in such a lovely place with so many people--so many different people, people at all different levels of experience with museums and art. There were the few groups of young art students with their outlandish clothes and/or hairstyles and de rigeur sketchbooks; there were young mothers and fathers pushing strollers, and large families with children of various ages; there were grandparents with their grandchildren; and mostly, there were couples. Of every age. At sunset, every vista point--and this is a center with a great many vista points--had been taken over by a couple embracing in the pink and gold light.
I looked at the Rembrandt and pupils drawings, then chatted with the guard. He said his favorite exhibit was the French furniture, so that's where I went next. There were so many beautiful things--chandeliers and tapestries and polished wood chests with gilt all over, and silver, and porcelain, and an orange velvet settee with matching chairs that I coveted so intensely I believed for a tiny second that if I could only acquire that settee and those chairs, there would be nothing left to wish for in life.
Then I saw this bed:
This picture doesn't do it justice, maybe you will understand when I tell you that every single person who saw it (except me, I knew it'd be on the Innernets) pulled out a cell phone to take a picture. Every single one.
I asked the guard there what his favorite exhibit was, and he said the paintings, so onward and up I went. Rubens. All those billowy bodies. Rembrandt. All those wonderful Italian nudes. (Am I the only person who thinks this is one of the funniest things I've ever seen?)
And here are two of the millions of reasons to return, as these paintings are "not currently on view" (but I love them, so I thought I'd tack them on):
(Andromeda, "Workshop of Peter Paul Rubens, Flemish, about 1640s, Oil on canvas")
(Female Nude in a Landscape, William Etty, English, late 1820s - 1830s, Oil on paper mounted on masonite)
The whole point--and forgive me for rambling, and forgive me for saying what we all know--is that sometimes art just makes you feel wonderful. It doesn't have to be provocative (although one might argue that the nudes certainly are, especially the Etty); it doesn't have to make you think (although it might). It can simply be a pleasure.
Happy Valentine's Day.
(The Fountain of Love, Jean-Honoré Fragonard French, about 1785, Oil on canvas)