Travel, Art and Landscape
For me, travel is like food. I must have it, to sustain my curiosity. Most changes in my life have come from education, travel, and art—and in the landscape of my imagination. Looking out of the window of a train from Nimes to Paris, I realized how my images of France were first taken from paintings and films. Over forty years ago, I saw the French landscape in the paintings of Courbet, Corot and Cézanne. Back then, too, I traveled through the cities and countryside in the films of Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.
As a teenager, I took Art History classes and studied French painting, from the Revolution to the early 20th century. It’s now clear to me: those classes were a formative influence on the way I see the world. Not just the way I see the movements, evolution and revolution within the history of Western painting. More than that, those afternoons of endless projected images burned the French landscape into my head.
Art History, as taught in those days, recounted a series of movements, and the work of artists within a school of painting, the dominant mode. Reactions against academies and reflections of cultural change were the chapter headings. The artists’ names and their works were material for memorization, for making sure that you could pass the test and pronounce the names correctly—from Jacques-Louis David and Eugène Delacroix to Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.
But what I saw in the darkened classroom, in paired light-filled slides projected onto pull-down screens, was the romance of the French landscape. From pastoral precedents for Impressionism to the fracturing of the picture plane that led to Cubism, those images of paintings took my imagination for a ride. I’ve never been the same since.