Sunday, November 27, 2011

Naomi and Jonathan Get Married

This past Saturday we drove up to the wild woods of northern Maine to watch, in person mind you, Naomi Gillette and Jonathan Bergman get married. Everything came off without a hitch and with nary a snowflake in sight -- although there was still quite a bit of snow on the ground from the year's first major attack by Mother Nature.

But for traveling the weather was fine and the traffic light as we headed up I-95 to I-93 and then back on I-95 again for the final push into Downeast Maine.

After the service everybody headed out of Bangor to Peake's Hill Lodge for a reception of Mexican food and contra-dancing. If you're not familiar with contra dancing, I've included a little clip in the animated slideshow for your viewing pleasure. (Later on I'll also post a longer clip with some of my favorite people tearing up the dance floor, so stay tuned!)

Oh, and you might want to go full screen and turn up the volume on your speakers or you can relax with the leisurely slideshow version (and captions):

If you'd rather view the images at a more leisurely pace, with captions no less, try this:

Madame F by Edouard Dubufe

"Madame F" (detail) by Edouard Dubufe {Musee d'Orsay}

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Berthe Morisot 1842-1895

Regarded by some as the "first lady of Impressionism," Berthe Morisot and American artist Mary Cassatt are indeed unique among that group of French artist styled as "impressionists." They were considered as equals by their peers, but especially by Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Degas.

Berthe is buried in division 4 of Passy Cemetery in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, but more importantly in the neighborhood in which she grew up and in the same grave with the man who was the single most important person in her life, her brother-in-law Edouard Manet.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving in Douglas, MA

Once again family and a few friends in New England gathered at Dick and Dorothy's home in Douglas, MA for Thanksgiving dinner --

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Impressions of Paris: Auguste Clesinger at the d'Orsay

"Woman bitten by a serpent" {Musee d'Orsay}

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Barging in France - two views

A quick search on Google for barging in France will turn up more than 200,000 results -- but the same search on Amazon will return just 17 results. The top hit is Hugh McNight's Cruising French Waterways. Although the latest edition was published in 2005, McNight provides an exhaustive amount of information on each and every canal in the French waterway system. Broken down by canal, each entry also includes a bit of historical background as well as a thorough guide of what to look for along the way.

McKnight provides the boating traveler with a good foundation in deciding which canal to travel and what one can reasonably expect to see and discover along the way -- and no unpleasant lock surprises since he provides all the necessary information here as well for each canal.

When I first started looking into barging in France, earlier this year, after eliminating the many hotel barge cruises offered, I found myself gravitating to those websites often maintained by expats living aboard a converted barge in France. One of those sites, Bill and Nancy's turned me on to the Dutch Barging Association -- as I had become somewhat curious about this whole subculture -- and I soon found myself swimming amidst a sea of fascinating characters from around the world, men and women who had sought to find themselves or peace of mind or whatever by living abroad a long boat on a canal in France. Fascinating.

And one name that kept popping up -- particularly on the DBA website, was Roger Van Dyken's book Barging in Europe. Although he now resides in the American Northwest, Van Dyken and his family lived aboard their own barge and motored thousands of kilometers on the canals and rivers of Europe.

While McKnight provides a good, all-purpose guide to the French canal system, Van Dyken explains the details of owning and operating your own converted barge. His approach is therefore geared toward potential barge owners as opposed to canal travelers. But whether or not you're in the market to settle aboard a boat on a French canal in your golden years, this is a handy little guide to how to drive a boat on a French waterway.

Both books are well-written, lucid and easy to understand -- and chock full of well-resented and probably necessary information. I bought both and intend to use them both.

Two big thumbs up for me.

Next up: So exactly where, when and how?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Clark in Williamstown, MA -- missing art alert!

This past weekend Susie and I took a day trip to the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, to spend some quality time with their collection of French impressionist art. It was a gorgeous day for a drive to the wilds of the far northwestern corner of Massachusetts, a space tucked amongst the Berkshire hills safe from the trials and tribulations of a chaotic world, a space shared with New York and Vermont. The traffic was light as we slipped quietly out of Providence early Saturday and headed up Route 146 to  I-90, the revered and often reviled "Mass Pike" where we turned left and headed west toward Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge and eventually Williamstown, MA.

Exiting at Lee, MA, we turned north up Route 7 passing through Lenox and crawling through Pittsfield and eventually found ourselves in the quintessential New England college town of Williamstown. A few minutes later and we pulled into the parking lot of the enormous Clark Institute complex of art research centers, labs, various offices and of course the museum itself.

We were slightly shocked and a bit let down to learn upon our arrival that most of their impressionist art -- Manet, Morisot, Degas, Caillebotte and others -- are touring the world for the next two years or so while the museum adds a whole new wing/building to their already amazing complex. As the women at the front desk informed us, the main gallery and numerous display cases in the peripheral galleries were indeed empty, leaving one with the impression of trespassing on a massive crime scene.

But having collected our wits and sensibilities we quickly realized that this place was well worth the drive. First of course there is this incredible location to be experienced and still quite a bit of fantastic art to be seen and felt: Pierre Renoir's seemingly endless fascination with women taking a bath, John Singer Sargent's impeccable studies of the human form, Winslow Homer's capture of the White Mountains, Alfred Stevens touching portraits, and Degas' Little Dancer to name just a few of the more outstanding pieces to see. Even a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington.

I hope you enjoy looking at these bits and pieces from some of the greatest painters who have ever picked up a palette; I know we did:

Next up: the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston -- maybe next week a trip in to the city on commuter rail and then the Tee to the MFA. After that it's NYC! And maybe even Brooklyn if we drive. . .

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I'm easily impressed and don't mind it a bit

I'm not  sure how it happened, but I have become quietly obsessed with French impressionism, those purveyors of seeing the immediacy of the world around them who styled themselves as the Cooperative and Anonymous Association of Painters, Sculptors, and Engravers. And for reasons even less clear I'm infatuated with Edouard Manet and Berthe Morisot in particular.

Perhaps the catalyst was visiting Manet's grave at Passy Cemetery in the 16th arrondissement in Paris, a grave that included Morisot (who had married Edouard's brother Eugene), or perhaps it was the multiple visits to Manet's room at the Musee d'Orsay, or maybe the over-consumption of critical studies, casual biographies and historical works that crossed my path over this past year. I don't really know and frankly don't care.

All I know is that I am awestruck by that most revolutionary of ideas promoted by the so-called impressionists, of capturing a moment in time, an "impression" of a person or a space - very much like that other voyeuristic revolution occurring at the same time: photography.
Jeune femme en toilette de bal by Berthe Morisot {Musee d'Orsay}

"Berthe Morisot with a Bouquet of Violets" (detail) by Edouard Manet {Musee d'Orsay}

"Edouard Manet" by Carolus-Duram {RISD Museum}

So now I have set myself upon a quest: to visit, in person, as many pieces of impressionist art as possible. I've started with the d'Orsay in Paris (an auspicious beginning I should think) and have twice visited the impressionist collection at the Museum of the Rhode Island School of Design right here in Providence. The RISD Museum just happens to posses one of the finest pieces Manet every produced and, not surprisingly, his model was his close friend and impressionist artist, Berthe Morisot:

The Museum is free every Sunday from 10am-1pm.

Next on my list before the end of the year are:
  1. the Clark Institute in Williamstown, MA (hopefully before winter sets in) 
  2. the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston
  3. the piece de resistance, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

The French Tarte at the Auction for Center for Women and Enterprise

Last week the Center for Women and Enterprise held their annual capital fundraising auction in Providence and Susie donated certificates for one of her tarts (to be baked) and a croissant class for four people. The 4th floor event room in the Conley Wharf building overlooking the head of the Narragansett Bay was packed as potential buyers sipped drinks, ate various things being carried around on trays.

Most of the items were works of art, of course, jewelry, paintings, and a few unique clothing items, and very little food: just the French Tarte and a young woman from Cape Cod selling Brazilian truffles. Susie's certificates for a fresh-baked 9-inch apple tart and a 2-hour croissant class for four people each received a half dozen bids or more and sold for the proverbial pretty penny. Yowzah!

Winner of the certificate for the 9-inch tart got to take this little tart home!

Treats for bidding inspiration

Pain au chocolat