“I was Dragged, Kicking and Screaming, to a Van Gogh Exhibition” | National Humanities Center

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“I was Dragged, Kicking and Screaming, to a Van Gogh Exhibition”

July 17, 2020

Parker, C. Allen (Center Trustee; General Counsel, Wells Fargo & Company)

Paintings; Museums; Art Galleries; Metropolitan Museum of Art

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.

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.


Art / Paintings / Museums / Art Galleries / Metropolitan Museum of Art /

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