Ferren Gipson on falling in love with a painting

I first found art through my interest in history. Once I made the connection that I could explore the history of the world through images, I was in love. Every day I have a process of discovering and re-falling in love with art through my research, and the most beautiful part is that one doesn’t necessarily have to like a piece of work to appreciate it. Every object has a story and, for me, that’s what’s so seductive. Once I engaged with art on a linear timeline, I uncovered that I could dive in and out of periods with specific questions in mind. What does a work say about the society in which it was created? How is an artist’s life reflected in their work? I’m captivated by the thrill of unpacking the little stories hidden within an art work.

The first time I stood in awe of a painting, I was in the Louvre in Paris staring down a swell of people queuing to see Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. Deciding to avoid the crowd, I proceeded to the galleries beyond and stumbled upon the 19th C oil on canvas by Théodore Géricault, The Raft of the Medusa. I’d studied the painting at university, but at 491 cm x 716 cm, nothing could prepare me for the scale and drama of the dynamic scene—I collapsed into a thoughtfully-placed bench in front of the painting. I spend so much time looking at art in books or on computers, and it’s moments like these that reignite my passion and remind me why art is so worthy study and preservation.

Love inspires us into action. It inspired me to study the history of art, and Lowry to collect the works of the Pre-Raphaelites. Falling is quite passive—it happens to you, often unexpectedly. Falling in love with art is a moment you weren’t expecting, when you pass through a gallery and a piece simply speaks to you…

Ferren Gipson is an art historian, writer and broadcaster. She is host/writer/producer of the Art Matters podcast.