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Getting to Know the Artist By Studying His Art

Getting to Know the Artist By Studying His Art

I’m on the plane home from New York City. I was there all week with my mom and daughter—a birthday trip and gift to us from my mom. We visited as many museums as we could and drank our fill of all the art Manhattan has to offer. 

Today, while visiting our last museum, I overheard a schoolboy quizzing a museum guide about a clock. The tabletop clock is gold, bejeweled, inlaid with tortoise shell and ebony, and even has a barometer—clearly a masterpiece of centuries gone by. The working gears are exposed, cherubim flutter near the face, columns hold it high. The boy kept asking why. 

Why are those angels there? 

Why did he make this part black? 

Why is that part gold? 

Why is there a little drawer under the clock? 

Why, why, why? 

The guide tried to answer his questions. But finally, out of answers, she concluded, “You know, we can’t know every reason for what the artist did. Only the artist can answer why to all of those questions. We can study his work and read about his life and try to come up with answers to those questions, as best we can. That’s why I like art history. But only the artist really knows why.”

So like God and his creation, don’t you think? 

It reminded me of something Kathy Keller said last night when we heard her speak at Redeemer West Side on “The Value of a Woman” (I know! Fine art and Kathy Keller all in one week. I’m spoiled!). 

When Keller was asked why God doesn’t bring about restoration now—specifically, why does God keep allowing bad things to happen to women?—she said something like, “I don’t know why God’s timing is the way it is. I don’t know why he’s waiting. But I don’t like to argue with him. I find that he does the right things in his right time. We have to wait and we have to trust him.” 

When we look at the artwork that is the world around us—both the beauty created by the Lord and the marred surfaces put there by man—we find the wisdom in what both the art museum guide and Kathy Keller said. We can’t always know why the Artist does what he does. His creation and all of its components will not always make sense to us. But we can study him and his work and the history we know about him, given to us in his Word. And ultimately, based on what we do see and know and learn, we can conclude that he is a good artist, worthy of our trust. 

I’m often like the schoolboy. I want to be more like the museum guide—admitting that I can’t always know why, but actively seeking and studying and getting to know and love the Artist through all of his work, which is readily on display. 

Author’s Note: If you’re curious about Keller’s talk on “The Value of Women” consider purchasing her book on the topic. It’s available for Kindle for $2.99. I haven’t read it yet, but after hearing her talk the other night, I’m eager to get it.

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