To celebrate my birthday on Wednesday, I played hooky from work and paid another visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This time I was accompanied by my lovely wife Susan!
As aficionados of Dutch Golden Age art, we made our way first to the special exhibit Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer. The name is misleading as there is only one work by Vermeer and a handful by Rembrandt. This is not a bad thing as a number of their contemporaries painted some excellent scenes of of 17th-century Dutch life. Jan Steen stood out as a favorite of mine. Art was unusually popular among all income levels in the Netherlands of that era, although not usually art as fine as that on exhibit. The exhibit is arranged to show art depicting the upper, middle, and lower classes each within their own gallery, with a fourth gallery collecting works that show the different classes interacting. Sebastian Smee has a great review of the exhibit in today’s Boston Globe that focuses on the social effect of the exhibit.
Photography was not allowed in the exhibit, so below is a list of my favorite works in the exhibit:
If you look at these paintings on your computer, make sure to zoom in on all the tiny details. The curators on the audio guide were particularly ecstatic about the brushwork.
After finishing that exhibit, Susan picked out a small but spiffy exhibit of American ceramics from the 20th century and then we wondered among the Art of the Americas gallery where we stumbled on a few surprises.
Paul Revere Pottery of the Saturday Evening Club, made in Boston by Sara Galner. Iris vase (1913) and Daffodil vase (1914).
Mickey Mouse vase and Underdog vase by Michael Frimkess and Magdalena Suarez Frimkess. Note: Nov. 18 is also Mickey Mouse’s birthday.
Native American (Acoma) ceramics – Seed jar (2002) by Sandra Victorino and Seed jar (2001) by Dorothy Torivio.
A pile of laundry? No, it’s December (2013) by Cheryl Ann Thomas.
John Singer Sargent captures boyhood, from a portrait of Robert de Cevrieux (1879).
John Singer Sargent captures girlhood, a detail from The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (1882).
John Singer Sargent captures Italian model Rosina Ferrara in A Capriote (1878).
Meta: Paintings of paintings hung salon style that are hung salon style.
Super-Meta: A painting of the gallery hanging in the gallery. Warren Prosperi, Museum Epiphany III (2012).
Photograph of the gallery from approximately the same angle as the painting.
Medea (about 1868-80), deep in plotting, as envisioned by William Wetmore Story.
Childe Hassam’s view of Charles River and Beacon Hill (about 1892).
My absolute favorite painting of Boston, At Dusk (Boston Common at Twilight) (1885-86) by Childe Hassam
Susan really liked The Fish (about 1890) captured in stained glass by John La Farge.
Selfie under the Sargent murals.
The Casey Overpass is over and past. The elevated highway structure that darkened the skies over Forest Hills and divided a neighborhood (literally and figuratively) for more than 60 years is gone. I wrote several times about the multi-year process that went into the plan to remove the highway and replace it with an at-grade city street, improvements for walking, biking, and transit, and public space, but had doubts that it would ever really happen. So when the big machinery arrived this spring and began dismantling the overpass, it was a delight to watch them in action. Even more so was the dramatic change that occurred in the Forest Hills area as the sunlight was able to shine on the area and views of the Boston skyline and nearby wooded parkscapes opened up.
There’s a lot more work to be done to complete the Casey Arborway Project, and I expect the construction period won’t always be fun, but I look forward to the continuing transformation of Forest Hills from a place where cars just drive through, to a place where people live, work, shop, dine, and play.
Here are some photos I took over the course of the year showing the demolition.
I made my third visit to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to slowly explore the art collections, gallery by gallery, piece by piece. You can see my first and second trips on this blog. On this visit I decided to focus on the Art of Europe galleries. I started out on level 1, which turned out not to always be European, nor even “art,” but the was fine. In fact I saw several wonderful exhibitions. The Kunstkammer Gallery honors the “cabinets of curiosity” that flourished in 17th century Europe and were the root of modern museums. The collections included hand-crafted automatons with videos that showed them working! Pastoral to Pop shows the rapid change in British prints and drawings over the course of the 20th century. And my favorite of all, Unfinished Stories is an absolutely delightful collection of found photographs grouped together by themes. You’ll never look at your family snapshots the same way.
On the second level, I explored the Italian Renaissance art gallery and learned about Maiolica, the brightly colored Italian tin-glazed pottery. I then joined a highlights tour of the Art of Europe which took us from a 12th-century Catalan chapel through the works of the Impressionists. It was an informative hour. I was able to return to the medieval and Renaissance galleries on my own for a more in-depth exploration, but then my time ran out, so the rest of the Art of Europe galleries on the second level await my return.
Detail of a bureau cabinet with an ivory inlays. Made in India (1725-40) in the English style.
Harlequine and Leda, Germany, about 1759-1760. “Now watch me whip, now watch me nae nae!”
Diana and Stag automaton, Germany 1579-1620
Nef (‘ship’), Germany, about 1620.
Nautilus cup, The Netherlands, 1659
Cyril E. Power, Air Raid, about 1935
Cyril E. Power, The Escalator, about 1929
Snapshot of a couple
Snapshots of surprised baby and dog.
Selfie with a steamship.
Dancing on the railroad tracks (this should be the cover of some band’s Americana album).
Henri de Toulouse-Latrec, Carmen Goudin in the Artist’s Studio, 1888
Guanyin, Germany, about 1720
The Last Supper, Italy, 16th century
Sandro Botticelli, Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist, about 1500 (perhaps the most beautiful painting in the MFA!)
Kneeling knight (Spain, around 1600) in front of Window with eight Apostles, the Pieta, and saints (England, early 15th century)
Eucharistic dove, France, about 1200-50
Christ in Majesty with Symbols of the Four Evangelists, Spain (Catalan), about 1150-1200. (This is the image of Jesus most likely to say ‘Duuude!”)`
Virgin and Child on the Crescent Moon, Austria, about 1440-50
Fray Hortensio Felix Paravicino, El Greco, 1609
Appeal to the Great Spirit, Cyrus Dallin, 1909 with Boston skyline.
I’m not someone you will often find at a college football game, but I got free tickets from work (full disclosure: my employer has a football team) and my son enjoys going to sporting events of any kind. So on September 26, Peter & I made our way to Harvard Stadium to see the Crimson take on Brown. A few years back, we saw Harvard run up the score in a torrential downpour against Holy Cross. For this game, the weather was crisp and clear, a perfect autumn night, but Harvard still ran up the score.
I may not be a big fan of football, but I love historic sporting venues and seeing a game in Harvard Stadium is a treat (when it’s not raining). It was also nice to be there when a lot of other fans were present for the atmosphere, including a large number of students who we first saw having a rowdy tailgate in the parking area. Unfortunately, with the score 37-0 at halftime, most of the other spectators departed, making it feel very lonely in the cavernous stadium. After the game, kids were invited on the field and Peter got autographs from a couple of Harvard players which was pretty cool.
Maybe I’ll do this again in another three years.
Refs in the zone.
Peter tries to identify the players.
Harvard defense prevents Brown from scoring.
The band’s half time show was full of painfully bad jokes.
No Brown players will be going in here.
Soldiers Field panorama
The Harvard dance squad does a quick show between quarters.
Peter in the end zone
The bass drum is running for president.
This Sunday I will be leading a Boston By Foot Tour of the Month of Cambridge Common, both the park and the neighborhood surrounding it which includes churches, collegiate campuses, and family homes. It’s fun and chock full of history! Buy tickets online at Boston By Foot, and meet us at the Harvard MBTA Red Line station/Out of Town News in Harvard Square before 2 pm!
Founded in 1631, Cambridge Common Park was once the common pasture for Old Cambridge. Later it served as an encampment for the Continental Army. Today it’s home to playgrounds and ballfields, surrounded by historic houses, churches, and buildings of Harvard University. We’ll explore nearly 400 years of history & architecture on our loop of Cambridge Common.
The fifth annual JP Music Festival took place at Pinebank Field on September 13. Too my shame, I missed the first four festivals, but I took the kids to a few hours on Saturday afternoon. Sadly, the kids weren’t too interested. My son was completely bored, my daughter was having fun but mostly because she enjoyed tackling me. We did get ice cream from the JP Licks tent and the kids enjoyed a bunch o’bacon from The Bacon Truck.
The performances are impressively organized with acts coming on to stage with very little break in-between. If you didn’t like what you heard, just wait a few minutes and someone else would be on stage. In the short three hours we were there I must’ve seen 8 different acts ranging from jazz to punk to Afro-Latin percussion to dance. Highlights for me include Junko Ogawa‘s song about a caterpillar, the punk saxophone of Fur Purse, and the young dancers of the Tony Williams Ballet Youth Ensemble pretty much stole the show.
The food trucks are a yummy part of the festival.
Junko Ogawa takes the mic.
This photo would be much better if you could see the shiny silver pants of the lead vocalist of Fur Purse.
Festival art honors the albino squirrel of Jamaica Pond.
Tony Williams dancers.
More dancing in the grass
The setting sun lights up Boston’s landmark architecture on my bike ride home on Friday, September 11, 2015.