The Kimbell, the Masters, and a Lesson Learned

I just got back from the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Their special exhibition “Art from the Private Collections of Texas” ends this weekend and I was running out of time. And there is a lesson in that for me and for all of us, I think.

But first, I have to brag on the Kimbell. You see, I knew that the Kimbell is a jewel box of a museum. It doesn’t have the square footage to compete with some metropolitan museums in sheer size and quantity of collection. So they make up for it by focusing on the quality of the collection. And they bring in temporary or traveling exhibitions to augment their permanent collection. Many times, I have seen major exhibitions whose only U.S. stops are the Met, Chicago, the Kimbell, and (maybe) Los Angeles.

So, I knew that this would be a good exhibition. That’s why I planned to go to see it when I heard that it was coming (months ago.) And, once it started, I kept saying, “We need to get over to the Kimbell and see the special exhibit.” (Did you notice the “kept saying”? More on that in a minute.)

Lots of things kept coming up… like life, conferences, developing a business, family matters, weather… and on and on. And still I kept saying, “I need to get over to the Kimbell and see the special exhibit.” And finally, the last week of the show rolled around. And I said… you know… “I need….” But this time, there was a hard deadline.

So, while I had made soft plans a couple of weeks ago to see it this week, as this week started (and I got back in from a conference), I had to make firm plans… no, HARD plans. I did not want to let this get away without me seeing it. And I did. Today was the day. And I went.

And I am glad I did! For you art lovers, you will recognize the names of many of the artists in this show. For those of you less versed, you will still recognize some of the names. (Yes, I am going to drop some names in a minute.) The collection covered European art from Greco-Roman times right on through contemporary artists. While the impressionists were probably the most represented (they were the most prolific, too, weren’t they?), there were lots from the Renaissance, too.

I expected to see one or two big name artists in this collection, but about a third of the way through when I saw my THIRD Gainsborough something clicked. Then I saw 3 Monets nearby. And that’s when I pulled out my notepad and started keeping track.

I had already seen a Rembrandt, about two dozen contemporaries to him and to the Italian Renaissance (including one by a student of DaVinci that had long been attributed to DaVinci – an incredible “copy” of the master.) Then there was the de la Tour (another repentant Magdelene… imagine that. (If Renaissance art isn’t your thing, the repentant Magdelene was a favorite subject of de la Tour.)) And if you weren’t familiar with him (and didn’t read the plaque), you would swear it was done by an artist in the last 30 or 40 years. He was that different from his contemporaries. (I actually overheard several patrons saying the very same thing to each other, too.)

I am not going to give you a tour of the show, but I can’t help recounting part of what impressed me… the number of “name” artists in the exhibition. Here is a list of some of the artists (numbers in parenthesis are how many works by the artist that I counted… and I may have missed a count because they weren’t grouped by artist.) They are in no particular order.

  • Rembrandt,
  • Gainsborough (3),
  • de Goya,
  • de la Tour,
  • Constable,
  • Rodin,
  • Leighton,
  • Gerome,
  • Bouguereau,
  • Alma-Tadema,
  • Manet,
  • Monet (4),
  • Cezanne (5!)
  • Renoir (one that you see in all the art books, no less),
  • Pissarro (several, I lost count on this one),
  • Van Gogh (3, yes, 3 originals in this show),
  • Picasso (2, one from when he was 19),
  • Matisse,
  • Reynolds,
  • Magritte,
  • Mondrian (6 and 3 of them were NOT geometrics!)

And, as I said, there were scores more by lesser known (but not necessarily lesser talent) artists. In fact, some of the canvases were attributed to one or another of the masters for many years before finally being pronounced authored by a student of the master.

And part of what impressed me was that these paintings (or, in some cases, sculptures), hung in people’s living rooms! Right there where they lived, every day. Where guests saw them as they visited. To me, that is different than a masterpiece that is in a museum. The Reynolds, Gainsboroughs and Monet were HUGE. Bigger than life size.

I confess that I did what I always do, too. I made the guards nervous by examining the canvas up close (and from various angles) to figure out how they performed some of the wonderful illusions that they did. Unlike magic tricks, I see how they did it, and I am still taken in when I move back. (Note, I always signal my benign intentions to the guards by keeping my hands in my pockets or behind my back when I am closely examining a painting. And I approach from the side to see brush strokes – it helps with the lighting and is a bit less threatening to the guards.)

Now, am I glad I went? I think you can tell that I am. Do I wish that I had gone earlier so that I might schedule a second visit in? Yep.

Remember that “I kept on saying…”? This is a problem most of us have… delay, procrastination, conflicting priorities. Some people would argue that Creatives have it worse than anyone.

Do you notice what finally got me to make it a priority and get it done? A deadline. A hard deadline. (Soft deadlines can be moved. Hard deadlines simply carry the consequences.)

That is a lesson that you and I can learn from. Do you have a deadline for your tasks and projects? Have you learned that you only really take action when there is a hard deadline? Is this a new revelation to you?

Now that you know it, what are you going to do about it? (May I suggest you start assigning deadlines to your projects, your tasks, and your “need to dos”?) How much more will you get done that way? What delights are missing out on because you haven’t prioritized them and set a deadline for them?

Think about it. In fact, think about it NOW (not later.) After you think about it, set a deadline… and then act. You know how good it feels when you achieve it. So why not do something that feels good?

Got a great story about deadlines or about art? Share it in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

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