Did I tell you the date is 9-11-2019?
This is part 3 of 3. Here is part 2: I Know the Master Cheesemaker(too)
Through the Green Mountains
How does one of the worlds foremost Renoir collections find it’s way into a tiny, depressed corner of Massachusetts squeezed between New York and Vermont? Who even knew there was some part of Massachusetts that was squeezed between New York and Vermont? The heirs of the Singer Sewing machine fortune managed to accumulate a large private collection of Renoir’s. Due to the onset of the cold war they were concerned for the safety of their collection. They feared a “possible attack” on New York City, where their mansion was located, could destroy the collection.
How crazy does that sound? Did i tell you we did this trip on 9-11?
The Clark looks very modern even though the museum was built in the 1950’s. It’s basically on farmland with the Green Mountains of Vermont to the north and the Catskill Mountains (The Borscht Belt) to the south.
I couldn’t shake the thought that it looked like it had been picked up by the tornado in the “Wizard of Oz” and placed in this beautiful idyllic setting by some odd chance. In fact, I suppose, that’s exactly what happened.
“Young Boy with Cat” is part of the permanent collection of the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. For you Americans reading this, that’s in France. I was there in November with Mark/Butterblogger for my birthday. They had a Renoir exhibition, so I was certain I would finally see it. It wasn’t there. I asked at the desk, they had to look it up in their computer and said it was in storage, but would be back next week. I on the other hand would not. The Musee d’Orsay is a re-purposed old train station, I guess The Clark Institute makes more sense for French Impressionist Art. At least for me. Vermonters and Bay Staters (with the exception of Bostonians) speak English and I didn’t need my passport.
This is a 20 foot high wall poster at the entrance to the exhibit. “Young Boy with Cat”, that has captivated me for more than 30 years, is a non-Renoir, Renoir. He was ‘between stages’ in his art. Truth be told, in my decades long quest dealing with museum people looking for it, They always had to look it up. It’s an obscure, uncharacteristic Renoir.
But here on a huge wall, someone else, besides me, was obviously impressed by it. I am NOT alone, after all.
Seeing the mural, which is just a cheap copy, i broke into tears. It was a beautiful mural.
I was here. I could feel it’s presence. And there it was, front and center, greeting me like long lost friends, the first painting in the exhibit. I didn’t have to look for the young boy and the cat, after 30+ years they found me!
Of course an IPad camera can NOT portray a masterpiece. I didn’t know it was a masterpiece until I saw it in person. Musty old museums all over the world are filled with boring paintings that I don’t bother stop and look at.
From the cats fur, to the plush velvet tablecloth draped to the floor, to the boys eyes that follow you while enraptured with his beloved cat, and the cat with her tail and paws wrapped around her beloved boy, the feelings of these beings palpable in the air…..
This is a masterpiece.
On the rare occasion you
see experience a masterpiece, there is no doubt. They Jump off the wall, they have a life of their own, they are 3 dimensional – like a holograph as you walk by and move around. They interact with you, just like any other living being. The heavens open and the angels sing. I kid you not. If you’ve never experienced a masterpiece you have not thoroughly lived. It’s easily worth driving 400+ miles to see experience a single one. It’s worth flying over an ocean, getting on a train, then a subway and even trying to communicate with Parisians in American English to see one. If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for?! Drop everything and do it right now!
A Word on Curation
The way and context art is presented is curation. Curation is often overlooked or not considered. Curation can make or break the experience. The curation of this exhibit was one of the best i’ve ever experienced. The only other exhibit that had such relevant and noteworthy curation that i’ve seen is The Barnes Collection in Philly. It is a billion dollar collection with probably the wackiest story you’ve ever heard – they made a movie about it called “The Art of the Steal“. But that’s the topic of another blog which will be coming in the future.
My uneducated layman opinion.
While I have never been a fan of impressionist art, this work is an outlier. It is not impressionist, though done by a famous impressionist. The accuracy and detail of the anatomy of the models gives it more of a renaissance sensibility of DaVinci, or Michaelangelo. There are other golly gee whiz impressionist pieces in the collection that are world renowned called the ‘bathers’. My only comments were all the women had male faces. All the males had female butts. I spent maybe 10 minutes looking at the rest of the collection and that was more than enough. I was done.
For lovers of felines.
There was one other masterpiece in the collection that I fell in love with, Sleeping Girl with Cat. While it was done 20 years later, it also is an outlyer – a revisit as it is hardly impressionistic. To cat lovers, it is obvious Renoir loved cats. He captures their positions, body language and most incredibly captures the emotions between the cats and their humans. Not only are the paintings alive, but you can feel emotion of the relationships in your heart and soul. Another great artist who loved cats, what a surprise!
Visiting Museums, a dummy’s guide.
Go see what you want to see. walk away, rest, go to the bathroom, go to the cafe, then go back and look at what you like again, rest, repeat. Once you’ve seen what you want to see, look around quickly, let your feet be your guide. One does NOT get their money’s worth by looking at every piece and reading what’s it’s about. That’s not art, that’s torture. When you’re done you’re done. Ruining the experience with overload or wasting time at other pieces that don’t draw you in is a counterproductive venture. “Don’t waste time, it’s the stuff life is made of”. When my feet point towards the door, I happily follow them and leave. In this visit, I saw what I wanted, and saw two other works that I liked. 3 masterpieces in one day, hell I hadn’t seen 3 masterpieces in the same place in 30 years! 9-11-2019 was a BIG WIN for me.
A few years ago I flew to Madrid to see Picasso’s Guernica, one of the most acclaimed work of art on the planet, based on a horrifically wacky (true) story. It was miserably curated; the room not big enough, not well lit. I spent about 4 hours just looking at it on and off, sitting on a bench reading my IPad in between. I found some Dali’s in another room. I walked by and looked at two of those, and loved them too. My favorite was called ‘The Great Masturbater“, go figure! Then I left. Not overwhelmed and very satisfied. If you like steak, you don’t need to eat the whole steer. There are museums and libraries full of stuff I don’t know and will never know. That’s just so satisfactory for me.
END Part 3 of 3.