Monday, July 01, 2013

Sunday trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

Looking for something to do in this part of New England is not much of a challenge: Three hours in any direction and you've got a wide range of interesting opportunities for exploration: ocean, mountains, major cities. On a recent Sunday Susie and I opted for the latter, Boston to be exact, or at least a small part of it, the Museum of Fine Arts.

We couldn't recall with any degree of accuracy the last time we were in this Boston cultural icon; it was  many years ago although we do recall going to see an exhibit of photographs by Alfred Steiglitz.

Anyway, we pointed the Mini north up I-95 and in less than an hour found a parking space just around the corner from the museum (lucky us, apparently) and found our way into the Huntington Avenue entrance. The is the one you really do want to see first, believe me; the rotunda is nothing short of magnificent -- and for $25 a head it should be great.

the Huntington Avenue entrance
Before you walk inside, take a moment and get up close to Cyrus Dallin's incredible "Appeal to the Great Spirit":
"Appeal to the Great Spirit" 1909 by Cyrus Dallin (1861-1944)
Once inside, with map in hand we stumbled our way through a maze of corridors and galleries looking for the 19th Century French Impressionists.

After about 10 minutes we both concluded that museums have become rather like hospital complexes today: a warren of spaces that seem to be only tentatively connected with one another. We also concluded that with practice, and repeat visits we would undoubtedly be able to find our way around with ease. But how many tourists have the luxury of living barely an hour away?

the Renoir corner
Near the Renoirs we came across one of Susie's favorite sculptures, La Petite Danseuse by Degas. We have now seen 4 of the 14 existing copies of this lovely and moving work at The Clark (Williamstown, MA), the Met (NYC), the Orsay (Paris) and now the MFA.
Susie and La Petite Danseuse

Nearby was a painting that struck me straightaway, "Grotto by the Seaside in the Kingdom of Naples with Banditti, Sunset" (1778) by Joseph Wright (1734-1797). I don't know if it was the color, the scene itself or the depth of field but I thought this piece fantastic:

And then there was the fabulous "Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome" (1775) by Giovanni Paolo Pannini (1691-1765). What incredible detail and workmanship to replicate all those views into one "gallery":

We then stumbled across a very nice collection of work by Dutch and Flemish painters, and one in particular, "Winter Landscape Near a Village" (1610-15) by Hendrik Avercamp (1585-1634) really caught our eye:

The MFA is also home to one of the largest collections of the American impressionist and portraitist, John Singer Sargent. There were at least two pieces where he used the same young female model, Rosina Ferrara, on the island of Capri:

"Rosina - Capri" by John Singer Sargent
The featured exhibition right now is a collection of Samurai armor -- fascinating, especially as they had tricked out not only "foot soldiers" but even men on life-size horses as well (and yes, the horses were wearing masks, too).

Looking for and at so much wonderful art really builds an appetite so we opted for a light lunch at the New American Cafe, one of four eateries in the museum.

The service was indifferent, the prices so-so but the food wasn't too bad and the company outstanding; plus it was a cool location to be sure.

corn chowder
And then there was artwork (of a sort) that was striking but tended to leave us cold, although not uninspired.

what coming to a museum is all about, I suppose: sitting, looking, reflecting

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