December 01, 2006

An Afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't paid a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in a few months. It's easy to procrastinate when it's close by and there is still time to catch the exhibitions. Then, all of a sudden, that special show is almost over and "Oh my Gosh!" it's time to do something about it!

So yesterday was sunny and beautiful here in New York and the perfect opportunity to rectify my recent lack of museum culture! I started with "Cézanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde" that runs until January 7th. Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) was an art dealer extrordinaire. At the tender age of 25, Vollard exploded onto the Paris art scene, realized that the days of the "Salons" were numbered and proceeded to revolutionize the business of art. Vollard was the first to recognize the talents of such 19th and 20th Century masters as Gauguin, Bonnard, Vuillard, Cézanne, Rouault, and most famously, Picasso. It was Vollard who gave Picasso his first show in Paris, in 1901, when the young artist had just arrived and couldn't yet speak French. This show assembles 100 paintings that were owned, exhibited or commissioned by Vollard. It also pays homage to his vision as a publisher and his major contribution to the art world in the form of livres d'artistes.

Next stop, Post World War I Berlin and the short-lived, but highly influential Weimar Republic. "Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920's" features the work of 10 artists active in the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement, and particularly an offshoot known as Verism. This show is not pretty to look at. The portraits, by such notables as Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and George Grosz, are harsh looks at members of society from the bourgeois industrialist to the aging prostitute. Graphic, cynical, hyper-realistic and sometimes cruel, they express the disappointment felt by so many in the aftermath of the Great War.

An anecdote to this ominousness can be found in the galleries of "Americans in Paris: 1860-1900". This is the New York venue of the exhibition I saw at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and reviewed in my blog on July 21st. I loved it then, and I love it now. I know it's fluffy, but the paintings are gorgeous and they represent an era of elegance and beauty that we only dream of today. Great American masters such as James Whistler, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Childe Hassam and Winslow Homer, all studied in Paris and we are the richer for their experience. Their wonderful portraits, views of Paris, interior scenes and plein air painting take the visitor on a trip to 19th Century France without a passport.

Finally, it's still early in the season but no trip to the Met during the holidays is complete without a visit to their magnificent Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche. This holiday tradition continues to enchant visitors who gaze in awe at the enormous tree adorned with beautiful terra cotta angels and surrounded by 18th Century figures depicting the nativity. All this in a magical medieval setting with recorded choir music playing in the background. It is a moving experience and reminds us to take the time to enjoy the beauties of life and visit a museum!

1 comment:

refuter said...

Have you noticed the Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art which is right next door? I think it is an awesome collection!!!
And I agree. Visits to the Met should be a "requirement" of every month.