Humanities Moments

Humanities Moments

We’ve all had “humanities moments” — when our lives were made richer, more poignant, and meaningful because of the insights the humanities provide.

“I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to a van Gogh exhibition”

Contributed by C. Allen Parker, Partner, Cravath, Swaine and Moore, LLP

Description

In what I believe was the latter part of the 1980s, I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to a van Gogh exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. And for the first time in my life, I wore one of those machines around my neck, where you listen to headphones and you hear somebody describe what it is you’re going to see. It was a brand-new experience.

The narrator was the then-director of the Metropolitan Museum, Philippe de Montebello, and at the introductory part of the exhibit, I was really struck by the quality of what he was saying. It was so well written that it really bordered on being fine literature.... As we went from room to room, his storytelling, and the visual impact of my seeing these extraordinary paintings by this extraordinary, troubled person, made an impact on me that I still think about, probably, every month.

There was a new richness in what I saw, but also a level of insight into what van Gogh had done that magnified to a great degree the impact that it had on me. Looking back on it, coming at a part of my life where I had been underground for a long time, as a law student, and then as a young lawyer, it pulled me back into the knowledge that there was this greater, more interesting world out there; one to which I owed a lot more attention. From then on, I dedicated myself to making sure that I was going to live a life that was more rich.

Why is this a Humanities Moment?

I get chills thinking about it even now, because to have this extraordinary storyteller explaining to you what was going on at that point in van Gogh’s life—what this meant to him, what it should mean to us—but still leaving the whole painting open to individual interpretation, it was really something that, to me, was quite profound.

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About this Moment

Title

“I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to a van Gogh exhibition”

Subject

I get chills thinking about it even now, because to have this extraordinary storyteller explaining to you what was going on at that point in van Gogh’s life—what this meant to him, what it should mean to us—but still leaving the whole painting open to individual interpretation, it was really something that, to me, was quite profound.

Description

In what I believe was the latter part of the 1980s, I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to a van Gogh exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. And for the first time in my life, I wore one of those machines around my neck, where you listen to headphones and you hear somebody describe what it is you’re going to see. It was a brand-new experience.

The narrator was the then-director of the Metropolitan Museum, Philippe de Montebello, and at the introductory part of the exhibit, I was really struck by the quality of what he was saying. It was so well written that it really bordered on being fine literature.... As we went from room to room, his storytelling, and the visual impact of my seeing these extraordinary paintings by this extraordinary, troubled person, made an impact on me that I still think about, probably, every month.

There was a new richness in what I saw, but also a level of insight into what van Gogh had done that magnified to a great degree the impact that it had on me. Looking back on it, coming at a part of my life where I had been underground for a long time, as a law student, and then as a young lawyer, it pulled me back into the knowledge that there was this greater, more interesting world out there; one to which I owed a lot more attention. From then on, I dedicated myself to making sure that I was going to live a life that was more rich.

Creator

Vincent van Gogh

Contributor

C. Allen Parker, Partner, Cravath, Swaine and Moore, LLP

Identifier

allen-parker-van-gogh

Location

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