I had been staring at an exquisite tiny Van Eyck for over an hour, my nose pressed almost up against it and my glasses tilted to the back of my head. Finally someone in the control box must have radioed the guard on that floor and told him to go check that nutter out, he may be up to no good. “Everything all right Sir” his whisper sounded deafening in my ear and I was suddenly jerked back to reality. Oh yes, sorry was I causing a problem? time started to become a relevance once more and a wave of embarrassment swept over me as I realized I had been standing there motionless for a very long time. “No Sir we just thought you may need some assistance that’s all” this I realized was a coded message for “move on buddy your being to worry us” I tried feebly to explain how I was captivated by this tiny little painting and I found it hard to comprehend hoe the artist could have possibly painted in it such fine miniscule detail.
I was just running through my one bristle brush theory when I caught his uncomfortable, “god here we go again” adjustment of his necktie and at that point my legs started to move.
I had been the first customer of the day; I bounded up the fabulous flight of stairs doing my very best Rocky impersonation only to be stopped by some guy wanting a hand out. He must have been aware of the exhilaration and feelings of warmth to ones fellow man that this place engenders in good souls because without thinking I slipped him five bucks and dashed to the top, just to stand there with my arms stretched out and the dat tad a dar trumpets playing in my head.
I was on a two day stopover, two days into a trip up to see the Hudson Valley, do an encaustic painting course at Kingston just outside New York, visit Woodstock, yes I’m an old Hippy and if I could find it, visit the Kaufmann Residence also known as Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water”.
“He Loved Museums” they will carve that on my gravestone, I can spend day after day wandering around a museum and never get bored or hungry or thirsty until they chuck me out.
I first discovered them when playing hooky from School back in the late 60s, there was a big resurgence in England at the time of interest in Victorian design, mainly propagated by the likes of the Beatles, magazines like Oz, Monty Pythons Terry Gilliam, stores like Biba and Mary Quant, so I decided I would investigate this further. It wasn’t really hooky I told myself its “research” and I got on the trolley bus, missed my usual stop outside the “Prison Gates” and sat there for another hour or so until I got to Wolverhampton, I had been told they had a Museum there and they were right, they had.
That’s when it all started, my fascination for all things artistically Victorian, it spread in my head like the root system of the Honey Mushroom, fired my imagination and struck a chord in my soul that is still resounding today “He Was a Victorian Nutter” that’s the other line they will carve.
So my legs are moving, God was in his heaven and I am having a wonderful day at “The Philadelphia Museum of Art”.
I have been to a few Museums in my time and I have dragged numerous members of my family kicking and screaming along with me, but what I really love it to go alone, with no one else to worry about, a day or so of pure indulgence, for John:
I have visited most if not all of the Museums and private collections open to the public, back in the UK, I have visited most of the great museums of European Cities and now I live in the USA I am slowly but surely getting around to the magnificent Museums here in the States.
It’s going to take me a very long time, I know that but if any of them can come to within a tenth of the quality of Philadelphia, then I’m in for a wonderful time.
So, I bet your saying to yourself, “what’s all this got to do with” Pierre Auguste Renoir ” so here we go I am about to tell you. I had seen the paintings of Renoir many years ago, I think the first time must have been in London’s Tate Gallery but anyway I had seen them and they were lodged deep within my psyche somewhere, but it was a long time ago and the impression of this Impressionist was not a deep one. Now I don’t know if spending such a long time in front of that Van Eyck had imbalance my brain chemistry, you know, like when you’re doing Transcendental Meditation, repeating a mantra and trying to block outside transmissions but suddenly I found myself walking around a small petition corner and Wham! As Roy Lichtenstein would say Whaam! There they were and the light from them was so radiant it almost knocked me off my feet. It’s called “The Large Bathers” and it is magnificent, the finest Impressionist painting I have ever seen and I have seen a lot, Georges Seurat‘s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte” at the Chicago Institute pales in poor comparison to this masterpiece. I wanted once again to stand there and absorb it all and I did for a long time, then I became conscious of the same guard standing some discreet distance behind me and I decided it would only be good manners to relive the staff of any doubts that were building up about me. It was long enough though for me to comprehend the significance of Renoir as a major figure in art history and in particular Renoir’s importance as transitional figure from classical academic French painting to the radical new styling of the Impressionist movement.
Eventually they asked me to leave, No it’s not what you’re thinking, they had called closing over an hour before apparently but I had become so engrossed with rediscovering Renoir that I had not heard the call to leave. I could have spent a week easily walking around this wonderful institution and I intend to return there soon but when I do I will make straight for the floor where I know I can once again meet Mr. Renoir.Google+