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Finding Your Window

I stopped counting the days that we’ve been quarantined. As the weeks went by, all the days started to feel the same. On the news all you hear is COVID this and COVID that, along with more people getting sick. On social media you see people not following social distancing rules.

One morning I turned off the TV and muted my social media. I found myself looking out my second-floor bedroom window—something that I often do, but on this particular day, I looked with a different lens. I saw an ocean of trees with different hues of green along with rows of animated houses. It reminded me of Paul Cézanne’s Landscape near Paris

Paul Cézanne, Landscape near Paris, c. 1876

Paul Cézanne, Landscape near Paris, c. 1876, oil on canvas, Chester Dale Collection, 1963.10.103

I’ve always wanted to visit France, and I was really looking forward to traveling there this summer. I was accepted into an artist residency at Chateau d’Orquevaux, but of course those plans were canceled due to COVID. As I sat at the window taking in the view of my newly discovered Cézanne, I realized just how much I missed work and the museum experience. Thank you, window. 

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Two Women at a Window, c. 1655/1660

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Two Women at a Window, c. 1655/1660, oil on canvas, Widener Collection, 1942.9.46

I picked up a book from my desk on the Gallery’s permanent collection and started skimming through when Two Women at a Window by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo caught my eye. We see two women framed by a window with a slightly opened shutter. What lies behind them is uncertain; the background is dark and vague. One of the women is peeking from behind the shutter, hiding her smile, while the other is front and center, not shying away. Their attention is fixated on something, but what?

I was only familiar with Murillo’s religious-themed paintings, so for me it was interesting to see his lens shift toward a more contemporary genre. I imagine Murillo passing through the town and noticing these women giggling from the window. They might have been hard to ignore. The genius of this painting is that Murillo was able to reverse the roles of the viewer and the subject. We (the viewers) have become the subject that these women are viewing. They’re observing us as if we are a work of art. Personally, I start to check and question myself as if I’m looking in a mirror. Is my hair okay, is there anything on my face? Did I miss a button, do my shoes match? Or am I just a gorgeous human being? Murillo gifts us with this window of an opportunity where we can imagine for ourselves what could possibly be so amusing to these women.

What do you see when you look out your window? Where do you see yourself? I see myself traveling to France, meeting beautiful people, and visiting museums to get up close and personal with a Cézanne. I challenge you to shift your own lens. Despite the uncertainties that may be surrounding us, like in the painting of the two women, let’s be hopeful. Imagine your next vacation, or imagine yourself getting dressed up for a night out with friends.

Find your window.