On my last trip to Milan, a local friend suggested that I visit the Museo del Novecento which is located just a few steps from the Duomo. So I did, and I highly recommend it to anyone that would like to spend a few hours looking at some wonderful 20th century works of art. It’s also a beautiful building, with an interesting layout that includes a winding climb and lots of escalators. In fact, the building’s layout was so interesting that I had to get help a few times from the kind security people on a couple of the floors (but what else is new?).
One piece that stopped me in my tracks (causing me to hover around it for so long that I drew attention from the security people) is this one titled Those Who Stay by Italian artist Umberto Boccioni. It’s sort of one of three pieces that make up the series titled States of Mind about parting ways at a train station. And when I say “sort of” it’s because this is actually a study and not the finished version of Those Who Stay, but I like it better. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Futurist movement as much as the next guy with all of those geometric shapes and Cubist flavor, but this one seems much more compelling to me for a specific reason: it oozes heaviness and sadness. The other two pieces in the States of Mind series are titled Those Who Go and The Farewells.
The reason I’m drawn to this painting is because I’ve always hated goodbyes, and I think it captures that sadness completely. I’m talking about final goodbyes and the emptiness you feel when your loved one is no longer in this world. For me and a lot of other people, the loss of a pet has the same heart-ripped-out pain and devastation and the only thing that helps me heal is to remember that I’m not alone in this. In this painting, all of the left behind streaky figures share the sadness of loss and goodbye together. It’s amazing how art can affect you that way whether you like it or not, pulling you headfirst into a sea of emotion with a language of its own, but without any words. Like a sad, sad song that matches just the way you feel inside, you can gaze into a painting like this whenever you need to and just feel sad because you must.
One of my dogs isn’t well. His name is Nicholas, and I haven’t featured him on the blog yet because he’s been declining since I started it in July and it’s just been too hard. I don’t know how long he has left, I don’t think there’s anything else I can do, and I’m facing that awful decision. But one thing I do know is at some point I will be spending a lot of time gazing into Boccioni’s Those Who Stay.
Visit Museo del Novecento.
This link will take you to MoMA’s Collection page, where you can see the Boccioni series (click NEXT when you get there to see all three paintings in sequence).
A good article on Umberto Boccioni can be found here.