Laura Halsey’19 Goes Behind the Scenes at the Art Museum

In the first semester of my freshman year, I took a seminar with Professor Caroline Harris called Behind the Scenes of the Princeton Art Museum, which was held at the museum. In the blurb describing the class, it was promised that we would at some point have an opportunity to see “a Degas pastel or Cézanne watercolor up close and without the frame”. The possibility was thrilling and helped to convince me to apply for the class. Throughout the semester I waited eagerly; I had no idea how or when this promise would be upheld. Each Wednesday afternoon, I hoped that it would be the day – and finally, it was. We all filed into the room filled with anticipation and what awaited us there…the weeks of waiting were definitely worth it.

Laying before us was not only the promised Cézanne watercolors, but also prints by Delacroix, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cassatt, and Rembrandt, an engraving and woodcut by Dürer, and much more. Even more, the term “close up” was not an exaggeration in the slightest. We were basically allowed to get as close as possible to the works as we could without touching. It was an incredible experience to see the holes where the artists hung up their works in their studios and the tiny marks on the engravings. I felt so connected to the artists. Seeing the works as such that day expanded my view of art as not only a final product, but instead as an entire process of creation.

The fact that my peers and I, in our first semester at Princeton, were allowed such an opportunity made me realize just how dedicated the museum is to not only educate and culture its’ visitors, but also to inspire and amaze them. The museum wants us to love and appreciate art, and this dedication and trust is what made this moment so special to me. Never before have I felt so personally connected to a museum, and never before have I felt so inspired and moved by art. Walking around the room, looking at various pieces, I was stunned. It became clear to me how lucky I was to have a museum that so willingly offered an opportunity such as that Wednesday afternoon – and as I get to know the museum better and better, I am sure this was just the first opportunity of many.