A Blank Canvas

Nathan Esquite

for Henry Tate

Art history: the study of why we create, what we create, when we create it.

These are the first words I ever heard Henry Tate speak. Prior to ever entering his class, I had already taken two other art history classes but with one simple phrase Henry taught me more about art than I had learned in my two previous classes. I recall during one of our trips to the Museum of Fine Arts, Henry took time to break down a painting by Picasso, “The Rape Of The Sabine Woman.” It was a very traumatic and somewhat shocking piece, at first glance I was left wondering why it was even brought into this world. He went on to explain that Picasso was very close friends with JFK and created this work as part of a series he did after his assassination. Picasso spent days locked away in his studio, broken over the loss of one of his close friends and poured his sorrow out on canvas. As Henry continued to explain the significance of the work, his eyes started to water and it wasn’t long before the entire class was in tears. This one moment perfectly encompassed everything Henry taught; to seek the why, what, and when of art. Prior to taking Henry’s class, art history was nothing more than facts and dates I needed to memorize and regurgitate for an easy A but Henry taught me not to just appreciate art, he taught me to love, understand, and become inspired by the beauty that surrounds not just paint on a canvas but life in motion. Henry understood that art was more than a painting or a statue, art was an expression of life; a portrait of our souls. The way he inspired his students to create and seek art in the everyday was in itself a work of art that Henry lived everyday. He often spoke of how art was all around us and cited “a blank canvas contains the infinite” as to say that our lives and our creativity is all a work of art waiting to be created.

We all experience events and moments in our life that we claim to be life changing, but I can honestly say that my time with Henry Tate forever changed my life and how I look at art. I am forever grateful for having spent time in his class and his teachings will forever live on in the students he inspired.