I had read the book and seen the movie, Woman in Gold. Both had been inspiring. It is the story of a family’s loss and triumph as told through the lens of a painting. But not just any painting - one painted by a famous Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt. The painting is a portrait of the beautiful Adele Bloch-Bauer, a young woman who died before her time from meningitis in 1925. Now I wanted to see the painting, to see if it would live up the hype in my head from the book and the movie. So on a sunny August afternoon, I went into NYC to the Neue Galierie where it is on permanent display. I was accompanied by a dear friend, since a journey of this kind is always better shared. After fortifying ourselves with a delicious Austrian meal at the museum café, we trekked to the second floor of this mansion type museum to see the painting, the exhibit about it, and some of Klimt’s other work.
The painting, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, looked just as I had imagined it and, at the same time, not. It was richer. Adele’s face was more mysterious and mundane. No wonder it was called the “Mona Lisa of Austria”. Still, I kept thinking about the woman behind the smile and the gold. Was it because I had read so much about her life that I wanted more out of the painting? Or could I put that aside just to admire the work as a piece of art – the skill, the colors, and the design? There was a larger Klimt exhibit that went with it but the other paintings seemed flat to me. There was also a lot of information about the painting’s history, with photos of Klimt, Adele and others from their lives. I looked at that briefly and wandered back to the painting. My soul was touched but perhaps not in the way Klimt had intended. Instead of mystery, gold and an explosion of color – here was a woman in her prime who did not know when she was painted what lay ahead for her, her country or the painting itself - I saw past the painting to her. And I also saw her looking back as if to say – tell me about me.
For in that moment I reflected that this must be how God sees us. Past the masks we wear. Past the artwork we draw of our own lives – the whirl of color on the good days, the sepia tones when things don’t go well, the ways we try to hide from the world behind all we have accomplished. As if to say – here is who I am; this painting of my life where I am the master artist. But God knows our hearts and souls and sees past all of that. We cannot hide from God even when we want to. I am comforted by that, knowing that God sees me, even when I don’t always see myself as clearly as I should. God says to me – stop painting yourself in the corner, use the vibrant tones! Let the colors of your life be filled with joy and happiness and know how much you are loved.
What is the painting you are doing of your life? What do you see when you look at it? As the leaves begin to show their own lovely colors, it is a good question to ask ourselves. And it is comforting to know that the Artist of all artists walks with us as we discover the answers