Back in 1997 or 8 I went to see an exhibit of Monet’s works at the Art Institute of Chicago. My boss was a member and we were at the opening which included dinner and a very good lecture about Monet and how he worked. Monet was a stickler for lighting. As he painted in the late 1800s he utilized the sun for light. Well the light from the sun changes throughout the year and varies day by day. Monet would paint for the few days that the light was how he wanted it. Pack up his stuff and wait until the next year. Meticulous about the lighting.
After the lecture we were off for the galleries to see the paintings. This was the largest collection of Monet’s paintings ever displayed, some of these paintings had never been together before. Magnificent paintings. I was amazed at the size of the canvases, some over 10 feet square. All of them magical in the images.
I was particularly drawn to Harbor at La Harve at Night with the golden lights shimmering in reflection off of the surface of the water. Amazing, magical, inspiring. Monet painted this 10 foot square canvas from the distance of the length of his arm plus the length of the brush. So amazing. My curiosity got the better of me, the scientist that I was I had to know how it was done. How Monet made this magic with his dabs of paint. So I walked right up to the painting. I could see each dab he placed on the canvas. From that close you cannot see the full painting nor see the light shimmer in reflection. From 20 feet away there is magic in the painting and you can take in the whole thing. From two feet away you can no longer see the whole painting and the magic disappears. For me the painting lost its magic. But I gained such a deep appreciation for the genius of its creator. It was a trade off, one I did not know that would occur, but a trade that was worth it.
It took some time before I could look at that painting and see the magic again, but it came back. Now I have the magic of the creation and the deep appreciation of the creator.
For me science is much like this. I may temporarily lose the poetic magic of the Creation, but gain a deeper appreciation for the Creator and I know that the poetry, the artistry of His Creation will return and I will have both just like with Monet and the harbor scene he painted.
(originally posted as a comment on Rachel Held Evans blog )