Armchair Culture: There’s No Need to Isolate Yourself From Great Art and History

March 23, 2020 Updated: March 24, 2020
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Forces beyond your control can take away everything that you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.  —Viktor E. Frankl, Holocaust survivor 

Our normal way of life is being challenged right now. With many of us being told to stay at home in order to reduce the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, some of us may feel as if our world has suddenly shrunk. We may have had to postpone precious events and vacations with family and friends.

But challenge can be the birthplace of creativity.

With the prospect of museums and art galleries being shut through April and beyond, why not use this as a chance to explore art and culture online. Of course, there’s absolutely no substitute for seeing a great work of art in person, but many world-class museums and art institutes offer glorious peeks into their collections: from curator talks to in-depth object blogs to interactive online exhibitions. 

If culture is an important part of your life, you can still plan those visits from the comfort of your armchair, as these websites testify.

Step Back in Time to 18th-Century America

“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances,” Martha Washington said.

Epoch Times Photo
Miniature portrait of Martha Washington, circa 1776, by Charles Willson Peale. (Everett Historical/Shutterstock)

You can learn more about Mrs. Washington through the Colonial Williamsburg website, along with the many people who were integral to the founding of America. The website is a great resource for a poignant time in American history. You can explore the timeline of events from the Stamp Act to the Revolution, for example, or explore how colonial Americans lived by learning about their food and crafts. There’s the recipe for Martha Washington’s favorite “Great Cake” and video tutorials for colonial crafts such as how to make a spring wreath, to name a couple.

To find out more about the exhibition, visit ColonialWilliamsburg.org

Discover Michelangelo’s Drawings and the Ruins of Ancient Syria

On the Getty website, you can experience a whole world of art. Of note are the overviews of current exhibitions at the Getty Center, such as “Michelangelo: Mind of the Master,” which generously includes a free online audio tour of 17 of the more than two dozen drawings on display. 

According to the audio tour introduction, Michelangelo used his drawings to prepare paintings, and to create and explore his ideas. But only 600 of his drawings exist, as he burned many due to his fiercely competitive nature.

Louis-François Cassas
Temple of Bel, cella entrance, circa 1799, by Jean-Baptiste Réville and Pierre Gabriel Berthault after Louis-François Cassas. Etching from “Voyage Pittoresque de la Syrie, de la Phoénicie, de la Palestine, et de la Basse Egypte, Paris, vol. 1, pl. 46. Platemark: 18 inches by 11.4 inches. (The Getty Research Institute)

Engravings and photographs, from the 18th and 19th century respectively, are curated together in “The Legacy of Ancient Palmyra,” an exclusively online exhibition by The Getty Research Institute. The exhibits pay tribute to ancient Syria before war destroyed the caravan city of Palmyra.

Louis Vignes
Temple of Bel, cella (inner chamber) entrance, 1864, by Louis Vignes. Albumen print; 8.8 inches by 11.4 inches. (The Getty Research Institute)

French artist and architect Louis-François Cassas drew the ancient site in 1785. These illustrations were made into incredible etchings in his 17991800 publication “Voyage Pittoresque de la Syrie, de la Phoénicie, de la Palestine, et de la Basse Egypte.” These “panoramic etchings conform to the voyage pittoresque tradition, inviting the viewer to simultaneously marvel at the grandeur of antiquity and lament its inevitable decay,” according to the website. Then in 1864, French photographer Louis Vignes captured the site on film. 

To find out more about these exhibitions, visit Getty.edu

See Northern Renaissance Masterpieces Up Close

The Closer To Van Eyck website enables us to see the minutest of details in nearly all of the paintings of 15th-century painter Jan van Eyck and some of his followers. Considered a master of the Northern Renaissance, van Eyck revolutionized oil painting by painting layer upon layer of translucent glazes, which allowed for exceptional blending and luminosity, where the brushwork is hard to see.

On the website, you can control what you see by zooming in or out of the high-resolution images, so much so that you can see the cracked oil paint on the exquisitely painted wood panels. Alongside each artwork are details about the piece. 

Epoch Times Photo
Outer panels of the closed altarpiece: “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” 1432, by Jan (Maaseik?, circa 1390-Bruges, 1441) and Hubert van Eyck (Maaseik, circa 1366/1370-Ghent, 1426). Oil on panel. Saint Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent, Belgium. (KIK-IRPA/Lukasweb.be-Art in Flanders vzw)

Van Eyck’s “The Ghent Altarpiece” can be seen before, during, and after its recent restoration, although the upper register of the opened altarpiece is yet to be restored. 

copy of the lost painting “Head of Christ” and an illuminated manuscript called the Turin-Milan Hours are among van Eyck’s other works. Some of the paintings on the website can be seen as 3D objects: for example, the altarpieces in their frames.

To find out more about the exhibition, visit CloserToVanEyck.KIKIRPA.be

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.