For years, a group of dear friends from Greenwich and I had a post-Christmas ritual. In the lull between holidays, we would meet at The Met Museum to wander around and look, chat about our perceptions and catch up in between. Afterwards, we’d find ourselves in some cosy uptown venue for something warm, until we said goodbye for another year. A few years in Palm Beach for the holiday put this ritual on hold, until this past season.
With a fantastic coincidence, the Manet/Degas show was still on at our favorite Upper East Side cultural landmark. I was thrilled to combine our annual art adventure with my own artist date. We headed there with the swarms of tourists – I was eager to see some of Degas’ works in person. This exhibit, curated to demonstrate the artistic friendship between these painters and their co-influences on one another, was truly a destination.
Degas’ portraits of his bourgeoisie friends and family are some of my favorite works of all time, as are his scenes at the race tracks and horse grounds. I was struck by their light, and his photographic framing (pre-photography) with a truly modern sensibility. While Manet has not always struck a chord within my imagination, I newly appreciated his genius – especially with the color white, and his brushwork. Of course, his Olympia, an art historical masterpiece, was profound to witness up close, its contrasts and boldness still having the power to arrest the gaze.
After there was little time, but we managed to traipse around the newly painted and rethought European galleries before heading to lunch at a fun midtown Chinese restaurant (with the most delicious steamed egg dish).
A second trip to the Met was on my agenda – I could not miss the Vertigo of Color show, featuring more 19th century French friends: Matisse and André Derain. This show cataloged this friendship and their time on the French coast, where they experimented with new colors. Their originality and unconventional uses of color birthed the Fauve movement. My eye was fixed on the various works of Mrs. Matisse wearing a kimono. This garment is one I’ve been studying since my trip to Japan.
I could not resist breezing by the Costume Institute on my way out. Stay tuned for more on kimonos from me… and the profound influence of all these painters in my Studio.