I Cried When I Saw Liberty Leading the People

This post is about the feeling I had when I saw pieces of art I learned about as an Art History minor in college. It's an incredible feeling to turn a corner and find myself standing in front of a piece of art that has had an effect on me, especially when it's least expected.

Liberty Leading the People by Eugene Delacroix

I first became obsessed with this work when Coldplay released Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. This piece was on the album cover and I went on to learn about it in my Intro to Art History class when I was a freshman in college, shortly after the album came out. I saw this piece at the Louvre in Paris when I was on a museum tour with my parents, and I didn't know it was on view there. We walked from one room to another and there it was. It took my breath away.

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat

Another piece that surprised me and moved me to tears. I saw this when I visited my friend Kirsten in Chicago a couple of years ago. It's huge, and hangs in a large hall in the Art Institute of Chicago. I actually wrote a final paper on this piece for my Impressionism class. I was first introduced to it in high school when my French teacher did a brief art unit with us. She had a dilapidated French Impressionistic Art coffee book and would flip through the pages as if they were slides, asking us to repeat to her the name of the artist with our best french inflections. Whenever she came to this piece, she reminded us that the technique used here is called pointillism. The artist paints by using color theory and mixing dots in specific color families to create optical tricks. "Pwah pwah pwah pwah pwah!" she would say. I'll never forget her lessons for as long as I live.

  • American Gothic by Grant Wood. While I was never tested on this one in college, it needs no explanation. I saw this in the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • The Child's Bath by Mary Cassatt. One of the only female artists I ever learned about in my entire art education. Also in the Art Institute of Chicago.
  • Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione by Raphael. I learned about this one in my High Italian Renaissance Art class. I remember my professor saying that black pigment was very difficult to obtain during this time and only the upper class wore black. The fact that he's wearing black clothing indicates his level of wealth. I passed this one on a wall in the Louvre and I was still on a high from seeing Liberty Leading the People. Never in a million years did I ever think I'd see this one in person.


...I just really love art.