A Visit to the Boston Museum

Last week, I happened to be in Boston and visited the Museum of Fine Arts. The most impressive section was undoubtedly the one on European paintings, especially the ones by some of the leading lights of impressionism – Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir and Paul Gauguin’s Where Do We Come From. Watching me gaze at Gauguin’s masterpiece for a long time, one of the security guards in the museum actually came up to the painting, read the information next to it and then watched the painting for many minutes. I might add that the security guards were mainly African Americans, while the visitors were overwhelmingly Caucasian.

Also very impressive was the section on Asian history. Three things struck me in particular:

  • The Lion and the Buddha are probably the two most common icons in Ancient Asia- the Lion dominates motifs from Iran to China, and the Buddha from Afghanistan to Japan
  • The Lion in ancient Persia was a symbol of both strength as well as … love, which explains why Ghalib chose Asad as his nome de plume (Asad means a lion)
  • In Buddhist mythology, the Bodhisattva is not just a previous re- incarnation of the Buddha, but also a person who gives up his quest for nirvana in order to help others achieve nirvana. This is a deeply moving aspect, and deserving of more contemplation.

You can watch the pictures that I took there (178 of them!). Some are a little out of focus and hence little blurred, and of course even the most clear ones do not substitute for the actual stuff.

4 thoughts on “A Visit to the Boston Museum

  1. just a technical notes here – while monet and renoir are impressionists, gauguin and van gogh are post impressionists and more full of life than the former.
    gauguin’s unique masterpiece is set in tahiti where he went to find colour and life among the indigenous people there.

  2. you are right, Rahul. I just clubbed it and so as not to complicate the text. I have found that books on Impressionism generally include both Van Gogh and Pauguin. But o course, you are absolutely right.

  3. The kind of situation you saw in the Boston museum is very common, since the US is one of the most highly segregated countries on earth. The lives of Americans of different skin-colors have few points of intersection. So is it with American (and Western) leftism.

    You’ll be quite the favorite of these people as long you criticize India (e.g. caste / gender). But speak a word about the excesses of the West or critique whites (or say Israelis), and see how quickly they shut you off. There is an unspoken assumption of white supremacy and Western superiority that must not be challenged.

    Too many Indian leftists still seek “approval” from Westerners. We need to overcome our feelings of self-loathing and our inferiority complex. The salvation and betterment of the Indian people can only be achieved by us and no one else.

    So be very wary of all the “friendly” whites of the South Asia studies type! These people are not the “friends” of Indians or any of the other dark-skinned / third-world peoples of the earth.


  4. ummmm…my guess is that the security guard you mentioned was trained to ‘observe the art’ alongside pokey viewers as a way to get them moving along through the exhibit. Just my $.02…

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