I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I will be doing the challenge here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is A is for Art History Inspires Creativity.
Visiting a gallery, perusing a coffee table book filled with prints of paintings, or noticing a child’s drawing on the refrigerator, can be a wonderful way to get your creative juices flowing. Most people know that great works of art all have a story behind them (even if the story is made up). Writers can also be inspired by art to create their own stories.
The Girl with the Pearl Earring
Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer painted The Girl with the Pearl Earring (image on left) in 1665. In 1999, Tracy Chevalier wrote a historical fiction novel based on Vermeer and the girl in his painting. The painting and the book became even more popularized in the 2003 film, starring Scarlett Johansson, and the 2008 play, again both called, The Girl with the Pearl Earring. Looking at the painting, it’s easy to how the portrait could cause one to imagine a story behind it.
The Girl with the Pearl Earring isn’t the only piece of art behind novels and films. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown is a well-known fiction novel/film written about the Mona Lisa. Here’s a TED post about 10 such novels inspired by art.
Art can inspire you, as well. Visit a gallery or look at art in books or online. It won’t take long for one to grab you. When it does, allow your imagination to play for a while. It might be a portrait, like Vermeer’s The Girl with the Pearl Earring.
Insane Woman (image on right) is an 1822 oil on canvas painting by Théodore Géricault. He painted a series on the mentally ill. The painting is housed at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, France. One can imagine a lifetime of stories behind the woman’s eyes.
It may be a scene with several people, or a piece of modern art. Théodore Géricault, the same artist who painted the Insane Woman, painted a massive work called the Raft of the Medusa. This painting depicts an actual event in history. After ship called the Medusa, wrecked, there weren’t enough lifeboats, so survivors constructed a raft. Lifeboats towed the raft, filled with 150 people (all of lower class) behind them. The passengers on the lifeboats soon realized that the raft was slowing them down, and cut it loose. What happened on the raft after that was horrific. Here’s a short video clip from Khan Academy, telling more of the story.
The Power of Art
The ability to elicit empathy and imagination in the heart of the viewer is part of the power of art. I challenge you to explore a local museum. Bring along a notebook and allow your imagination to take over.
I wish to thank my daughter, Summer Erickson, and Art History Major at the University of Saint Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota for her consultation on this post.
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I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.
I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.