Saturday, November 1, 2014

Museum Day with Suzanne

My friend Suzanne was here yesterday.  We got to know each other when I lived in Portland and we were both in Portland Plein Air and Studio Painters.  We also used to enjoy life drawing at Hip Bone Studio in Portland.  Suzanne and her husband Walter come to Washington two or three times a year and Suzanne and I always make time to go to art museums together while she is here.  Walter has sto amuse himself on that day.  

So I met Suzanne yesterday at the Freer Gallery and enjoyed some of the famous Whistler paintings that Mr. Freer had collected.   Most interesting, to me, is the Peacock Room.  You can read about it at this link:
The room is dominated by Whistler's painting, "The Princess from the Land of Porcelain," shown in the above photo.  Another painting in the room depicts peacocks fighting and was done by Whistler to document a fight he had with the original owner of the room, Mr Leyland.  As the story goes, Mr. Leyland had agreed to some minor changes to be made by Whistler in the rooom.  However, Whistler ended up make dramatic, expensive changes and that caused a major conflict.  Later, Freer acquired the Princess painting and eventually bought the entire room and had it moved from London to his home in Detroit, Michigan.  When Freer died in 1919, the Peacock Room was moved to the Freer Museum.
Suzanne and I also enjoyed a new exhibit, "Fine Impressions: Whistler, Freer, and Venice," which is a series of etchings done by Whistler when he was in Venice.  When Freer saw them, he bought them all as a set and that is what is exhibited.  Yes, Mr Freer had money.  He made his fortune producing railway cars.  I am grateful that he was an art appreciator because these things may not have been collected and then exhibited without his devotion to art.  

We then went to the Sackler Gallery which is connected to the Freer.  We saw lots of Asian art there, including the well-loved "Monkeys Reaching for the Moon."  It is a chain of word monkey in various languages made into links that reach from the top floor to a pond at the bottom and recalls monkeys seeing a reflection of the moon in a pond and trying to reach it.   

We then had a chance to reflect on the very contemporary exhibit "Perspectives: Chiharu Shiota."  It is shoes tied with red yarn and connected at a single point.  I can't effectively describe it.  Here is a picture:

Many of the shoes have notes explaining the significance of the shoe.  It is actually quite beautiful.

We then had a nice lunch at the Pavilion Cafe in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.

We were not done yet.  We went to the American Art Gallery and National Portrait Gallery.  Those two museums are also connected.  Double Double Museum Day!!!  We began on the top floor where we saw an exhibit that I believe is permanent.  It is called "Bravo," and consists of of American entertainers by American artists.  Neither of us had been there before and so it was good to see.  I After that, I wanted to show Suzanne one of my favorites.  It is a portrait of Katherine Hepburn.

We went downstairs and found a new exhibit, "The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art," raising issues about extinct birds and the human/avian interaction. Very interesting.  

Still not done with art viewing, we went to an exhibit of works by the photorealist artist Richard Estes.  The work is very detailed and makes you wonder why doesn't he just do a photograph. However, really looking at them makes you realize that he is painting better than the camera (and maybe the human eye) sees.  Also, he takes some artistic liberties and puts in something like mountains when none are there.  It is fascinating, but I am not sure that I "get" it.  While we were there, Walter joined us which was fun.  

We closed with a wood-fired pizza dinner at Ella's and I went home in an Uber while Suzanne and Walter walked back to their hotel.  Nice art day!!!!  And good to spend time with friends.