Behind the Scenes, Gardens and Architecture, Getty Villa

A New Light: 15 Hours in the Getty Villa Gardens

I’m often struck by how transformative a place the Getty is. Throughout the day a great deal can change. While the crowds do come and go, I’m often most transfixed by the subtle shifts of light, the surprising movement of shadow, and the delicate sounds of the breeze through foliage. These things make me see the Getty Center and the Getty Villa as sites of inspiration. I am confronted by these environments in surprising ways daily that make me see them in a new light.

I turned my attention to the Outer Peristyle at the Getty Villa to try and capture what I could of the ever-changing atmosphere. I set up a still camera for 15 hours to document the gardens from sunrise to sunset, snapping a picture three times a minute. I formed the over 2,500 images taken that day into this time-lapse video of the garden.

Before filming day, I worried it might be a tedious day. I expected to sit on a bench and fantasize about having cell service as I listened to the incremental timer capture freeze frames of the gardens.

Villa Gardens Detail

But with every 20-second click I was off, investigating a chirping noise in the trees, or rolling in the gravel perfecting an angle of the sky, or coercing a droplet of water to fall into frame. It was a day of enhanced perception; a day of exploration of the environment’s effects on the mind. Have you noticed the cobwebs behind the ears of the busts? Or the colorful, iridescent quality of the travertine platform on which the Drunken Satyr reclines? Or the beautiful, flickering light patterns on the terrazzo floors at high noon? Or the way the rectangular expanse of the gardens becomes an arena for observation? With each lap, a new sight revealed itself.

My 15-hour stroll through the gardens didn’t make me an expert. It did, however, make me more aware of the infinite amount of sensory possibility present in even the most constructed of outdoor environments. And while I don’t claim to be an authority on the matter, I must admit that witnessing the moment where the lanterns flicker on as the dark cerulean skies melt into purple, and then into black, is one not to be missed.
Villa dusk

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  1. gettydocents
    Posted August 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful film- thank you for taking the time to capture this.

  2. Sarah
    Posted August 15, 2012 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much! It was my pleasure. I wouldn’t call spending a lovely day in the Villa gardens a sacrifice – it was more of a luxury! I’m happy you enjoyed.

  3. Irie
    Posted August 19, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Sarah you are amazing! Turned out so beautifully.

  4. Posted August 20, 2012 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Iris! Your support is kind!

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      #ProvenancePeek: July 31

      Every art object has a story—not only of how it was made, but of how it changed hands over time until it found its current home. That story is provenance.

      This small panel by Dutch master Gerrit Dou (photographed only in black and white) is now in the collection of the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. It was sold to American collector Robert Sterling Clark, an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune, in the summer of 1922.

      How do we know this? Archival sleuthing! A peek into the handwritten stock books of M. Knoedler & Co. (book 7, page 10, row 40, to be exact) records the Dou in “July 1922” (right page, margin). Turning to the sales books, which lists dates and prices, we again find the painting under the heading “New York July 1922,” with its inventory number 14892. A tiny “31” in superscript above Clark’s name indicates the date the sale was recorded.

      M. Knoedler was one of the most influential dealers in the history of art, selling European paintings to collectors whose collections formed the genesis of great U.S. museums. The Knoedler stock books have recently been digitized and transformed into a searchable database, which anyone can query for free.

      Girl at a Window, 1623–75, Gerrit Dou. Oil on panel, 10 9/16 x 7 ½ in. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts

      #ProvenancePeek is a monthly series by research assistant Kelly Davis peeking into #onthisday provenance finds from the M. Knoedler & Co. archives at the Getty Research Institute.


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