I love looking out the upper level of a parking garage at rooftops and chimneys. It makes me think of Dickens novels. And I’ve always been interested in art that shows a view from a window or someone looking out a window.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art must like windows, too, given that it mounted a whole show called Rooms with a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century. I’m told that the exhibit’s focus was on how a window can frame a subject, but I’m more interested in what the person at the window is feeling.
There is a lovely painting at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts showing a young woman working at a sewing machine and gazing out a window through which a soft, dreamy light is falling. What is she thinking? “The Open Window,” painted by Elizabeth Okie Paxton in 1922, gives me the feeling that the woman is thinking about what other people are doing out in the world or what she might want to do someday.
I got a new insight into gazing-out-windows art from a review of the movie Hugo in the NY Times.
Manohla Dargis writes, “Mr. Scorsese caps this busy introductory section with Hugo looking wistfully at the world from a window high in the station. The image mirrors a stunning shot in his film Kundun, in which the young, isolated Dalai Lama looks out across the city, and it also evokes Mr. Scorsese’s well-known recollections about being an asthmatic child who watched life from windows — windows that of course put a frame around the world. This is a story shared by all children, who begin as observers and turn (if all goes well) into participants. But ‘Hugo’ is specifically about those observers of life who, perhaps out of loneliness and with desire, explore reality through its moving images, which is why it’s also about the creation of a cinematic imagination — Hugo’s, … Mr. Scorsese’s, ours.”
I had not thought about that before — that we all start out as observers.