Posts Tagged ‘museums’

Chicago is off the itinerary since I had no clue how exhausting children are. I have not slept very well, and have been enjoying doing stuff around the house, riding the bike around occasionally and going to the park, and mostly doing stuff around the house. Since time both drags and seems to suddenly run out when you least expect it, it is now Thursday and I fly back Saturday mid-day.

So today I will be riding 10 miles to Mitchell Park Conservatory, locally known as The Domes. I’ll be heading past Ben’s Cycles again because it turns out I will actually need a chain breaker in my near future and they sell the one I suspect the bike shop in Florida was going to sell me, but $7 cheaper. That works.

Then, I have directions to go to the Milwaukee Museum as well, but don’t know if I’ll get there. Actually, after looking at the site, maybe I will. There are some cool exhibits on. G is going to pick me up after the kids’ nap time, and we will go to the knitting shop she likes. I guess I’m going to learn how to knit! Because I want a few more cowls, and because no one I know, except G (who is overburdened with projects) knows how to knit, a new hobby sounds like a plan. However, I bet I’ll have to check my luggage this time as I doubt they allow knitting needles on the plane, though I could check easily enough. Turns out I can. Sweet. So I’m borrowing G’s 10.5’s and buying a skein of alpaca (super soft and keeps its shape), awesome! Will give me something to do instead of trolling the internet and reading.

Speaking of reading, I’m so happy to be reading again. We went to the library last week and I took out Charlaine Harris’s third in the Harper Connely series, An Ice Cold Grave. Banged that out in two days, then moved on to the Dexter books. Book 1 down in three days, now I’m working on Book 2, which I will take with me to the conservatory. It’ll be nice to read among the flowers.

Otra vez, ustedes trajo un video musical:

Me encanta Shakira, cuando tiene razon o no, no me importa! Pero, en serio, que pasa con eso video!?

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On Saturday I visited the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, a private museum in Madrid that displays the holdings principally of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, at the neoclassical Palacio Villahermosa across the street from the Prado. Recently the acquisitions of his Spanish wife, Carmen, have also been added to the collection, resulting in several new wings being built.

I mainly ignored the guide, thinking there was no special layout to the museum beyond different epochs belonging to different wings or floors, but I noticed that I was heading in a circuitous route through time by my chosen tour through the museum. Starting with the permanent collection and moving through Carmen’s added section, I went from 17th century Italy and Holland through wan, thin French folk, into the lovely light-infused, remarkably shadowed Impressionist period and then back again. The holdings are impressive, vale la pena, yet while I would love to go back as often as I wished, the 6€ ticket price is a bit steep and there are no free or reduced entry times. I am sure I will return again, however.

When looking at art, I like to get right up on the canvas, seeing whether brush strokes are visible or not, and then stand back quite a bit and mark the difference in the view. The styles of Caravaggio and the Dutch masters of the 1600s look like cartoons when viewed close up, but if you step back, you can see (for example) the rosy flush of drink on the face of a violinist “merrily” toasting someone out of view, his lower social standing evident in the clothes slumped off one pale shoulder.

Dutch interiors circa the 1660s all seem to focus on the corner of a room with a window on the left and tapestries, maps or other rich ornamentation placed around the subjects, who are often playing musical instruments. De Hooch, Vermeer, Maes. The Flemish and the Dutch are also extremely well-known for their exceptional still lives, of which I never seem to get tired. But who was buying these paintings in the 1600s? How much did they cost? Was it the burghers or were the patrons of slightly higher standing?

One thing I notice about museums here that I haven’t noticed elsewhere is that often the birth city and death city of the artist are printed on the cards for each painting, and I meant to look up – was John Singer Sargent born in Florence? Yes, indeed he was, to American ex-patriot parents. His early life was a constant whir of travel which explains why he remained, essentially, an ex-patriot to the end. And, noting one painting by William Merritt Chase, I thought, “Hmm..1895, was that before he started using his graphic?” only to realize after researching when I returned home that that was Henry McNeil Whistler. I should be forgiven, as his mark resembles a W and both have prominent Ws in their names and similar styles, being contemporaries in Impressionism.

Turn a corner, spot a piece, jealously guard it for last – it looks like it might be a Schiele, but I am surprised in turn and discover it to be one of this lovely lady by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The only Schiele in the collection was on loan for another week or so. I wish I could have found a better photo on the internets of the Tolouse-Lautrec but I am finding more and more that it’s nearly worthless to view a painting in photos except to conjure reminders of what has already been seen in person. How do art students who go to schools nowhere near major art museums cope?

My favorite thing about going to new museums is not only finding art by artists whose work I feel I know intimately, but art by artists I’ve never heard of. It’s not that I have some rarefied, extensive knowledge of art, rather I got a decent layman’s art education by working as a guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan for a year, pumping my fine arts degree gettin’ friends for info and clarification and testing stylistic connections I’d made. So it was a great pleasure to come upon unexpected watercolors by Moreau and Prendergast and a gorgeous O’Keefe, sin floras, entitled New York with Moon.

Moving on, we find the awesome, weirdo Austrians, and Germans, and some Frenchies. Around the early 1900s, artists like Braque, Camoin and Vlamenck all seemed to have created works while sitting at the feet of Cézanne. As I grew up, I expected to have basically one job, or at least one kind of job for the majority of my working life. This has not been the case, but the expectation is still there, and it makes me so happy to see artists from the 1880s and later, who had whole sea changes over and over again in the direction their art took. Life appeared so open for them, and whether or not it actually was, we can still content ourselves with the sensation aroused by looking at their oeuvres.

As always, I visited the museum shop, and desperately wanted a few items, but they were indeed not vale la pena and I let them be.

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There has been a lot of stop-and-start in my time here in Madrid. I move forward a step with finding things but two steps back when I get there because Madrileños speak so quickly, even when it’s apparent that I’m not fluent, that I’m having a hard time understand anything people say. Last week I was walking around again, as that’s about all I can do here right now, and decided that I was cold and wanted to stop into one of the millions of cervecerías in town for a beer. Cañas are teeny little beers for around €2, depending on the bar, and are the most common form of beer you’ll get here. After writing for a little bit in a tiny, smoke-filled room, the guy next to me struck up a conversation. He offered to show me another bar, serving proper pints of English beer. As I wanted to practice my Spanish more than the most common transactions allow, I agreed to accompany him. It was pretty funny, I’d be rolling along, understanding 90% of what he said, then came a fog where not a single word he said made it through. After about an hour of this, I’d had enough, and when he began to sound a little amorous, I’d really had enough so I took my leave and went back to the apartment.

Sunday I went to the Museo Bellas Artes and had a lovely immersion into Spanish art from Zurbarán through modern artists like José María Labrador. Two of his paintings in particular caught my eye, small portraits of his wife and his most regular model, done in a sublime style influenced by Renaissance art. Spain seems to have a tradition of extremely young, extremely talented artists. It was here that I was reminded of the exhibition from a few years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manet/Velázquez, tracing the French appreciation of Spanish art via artists like Zurbarán, Velázquez and Ribera through the Impressionist movement in France and how it affected artists like Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas and their American expatriot contemporary, John Singer Sargent. One painting in particular, at Bellas Artes, by Juan Baptista Martínez del Mayo very clearly owes a debt to Velázquez and influenced Singer Sargent. Unfortunately, just as I got to the Goyas, I was asked to leave for the day. Next time, at only €3 it is one of the cheaper museums in Madrid.

One of my very best discoveries has been at the local grocery store, €.59 40s of beer. Steinberg Clásica, tastes just fine.

Last night around 8 p.m. I went out for a walk, I’d only left the apartment once all day, and that was to get groceries. I ambled north to the Paseo de la Castellana, which becomes the Paseo del Prado further south. This wide, tree-lined avenue was pretty, but a little boring and I remembered that calle Orense was somewhere nearby and decided to turn in its direction to suss out the location of a restaurant I’d been led towards as a possible source of employment.

Not being dressed in my finest, nor in anything even resembling stylish, I decided to pass it by instead of investigating the situation any closer, even at this early hour. Having found it, on I went toward c/ Bravo Murillo and known amounts of cervecerías, the better to attend to my bladder, lately begun to request attention. The area I found myself in seemed populated mostly by high rises and hotels, somewhat desolate, slightly residential.

A few winding turns later, through residential blocks a strange mixture of older and newer architecture (and by newer I mean at least 40 years old), I found myself where Avenida General Perón becomes c/Avila, conflicting impulses of shyness and the need to pee forcing me first to walk past the pub on the corner and then to retrace my steps and to go inside. Passing through the low doorway, I found myself in a small pub lined with leather and hammered nail banquettes, many people belly up to the long bar. It housed two gaming machines and the ubiquitous to Spain cigarette machine that Americans likely no longer encounter. I placed myself in front of the bartender and asked for the “carta de vinos”, what I had been led to believe was the correct request for the wine list and was met with confusion on the part of the bartender and mild derision from the “lady of a certain age” to my right. When asked if I wanted tinto, blanco o rosa, I concurred tinto and when he brought back one glass and a single bottle of red, I understood. I guess asking for jerez (sherry) might have gone over better there. My chilled red cost only €2.70.

Due to the early hour, I could barely smell the smoke in the air and retired to one of the banquettes with my glass. This is not an avant garde clientele like at the cafe I had hoped to visit tonight. But living so far north of the center, and not being able to figure out what’s going on with the Metro, when each particular station closes and when service stops completely for the night, I stuck around my apartment – I did not relish the thought of a 2 1/2 hour walk home at night.

I finished my wine, wended my way back to c/Bravo Murillo, and found myself absolutely ravenous. The combination of not knowing what the hell anything means on menus, not wanting to order yet another sandwich and lots of walking has taken its toll on my weight and my stomach fought back. I needed dessert. Lots of it, preferably something with vanilla creme and sponge cake. I found exactly what I wanted, as the subject line will attest, and happily gorged while walking home.

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