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August 26, 2006

Thank you Messrs. Olmstead and Vaux (and good art too!)

For Central Park


The Mall
. It was a gray day, but that meant everything seemed greener.


Even the stone work.


I was walking through the park this morning on the way to the Metropolitan Museum, where my friend Matt and I spent the afternoon. We both marveled at the efficiency of the visit. Usually visits to that vast hulk of a museum involve a lot of getting lost and aimlessly wandering. This time, we headed straight up the stairs and hit the exhibition of Rembrandt drawings and etchings first. Walking out of that brought us right to his objective for the visit, the Raphael Colonna Altarpiece. From there, we headed out to the Impressionist collection - right down the hall and looked at the Greatest Hits - Monet's Rouen Cathedral series, Seurat's Circus Sideshow, Vuillard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh. From the impressionist area we went through the Great Hall (the Islamic art has been relocated there while its exhibition area undergoes renovation) and into the Chinese galleries, where we both gawked at the massive Buddha painted on the side of a wall and wondered how they got it to the museum. The Astor Court - a Chinese scholar's garden had him staring at the woodwork and me marveling at the calmness of the architecture. From there, we both went nuts over the Japanese screens, particularly a comparatively modern one of morning glories that looped right back to the Impressionist paintings we had just seen.

From there, as a lark, we looked at the Anglomania exhibition of traditional and "transgressive" fashions set in period rooms, which was insubstantial in comparison but fun nonetheless (albeit crowded). Heading to the exit, we finally got lost. It isn't an afternoon at the Met without getting lost once.

Matt and I make excellent museum companions; we both move at about the same pace when looking at art so one of us isn't racing ahead or lagging behind. We also know each other's taste very well, and it's been interesting to watch both of our taste evolve and influence each other. Matt helps me appreciate the offbeat; I get him to appreciate the more classical. We passed a small drawing Rembrandt made of the execution of a young woman on a gibbet; I knew he was going to love it - sure enough I was right.

Ironically, I had gone with Valerie the night before to the Morgan Library, where many of the same Rembrandt etchings (though often in subtly differnt versions) were on display - it is the 400th anniversary of his birth.

The Morgan is free on Friday nights after 7 p.m., and the collection is very high quality - medieval art, books and manuscripts and early religious art including reliquaries and ciboria. It's not crowded, the museum is a lovely setting (although a bit aggressively brand spanking new still - it seems all atrium in its new design that moved the entrance from 36th Street to Madison Avenue). A great way to spend a friday night, and free, to boot.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at August 26, 2006 9:56 PM

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