I’ve posted many photos from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, so for a change of pace here’s a sampling of the art I saw in just a teeny portion of the massive Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Matisse exhibit paired many objects from his studio featured in his art with the art that captured the moods, shapes, and colors of those objects. The McCloskey exhibit is small but features delightful studies and sketched of illustrations for books such as Make Way for Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, and Burt Dow: Deep Water Man. The Botticelli exhibit brings together many works of art rarely seen outside of Europe while in charming parochial way also celebrating “Boston Botticelli” by bringing in works from the MFA, Gardner Museum, and Harvard Art Museums. The exhibit also includes works by Filippo Lippi (Botticelli’s teacher) and Filippino Lippi (Filippo’s son and Botticelli’s student).
Here are some of my favorite works.
To celebrate the beautiful weather our autumnal holiday, I wanted to get out of the city, get the kids outdoors, and enjoy some foliage. We go to do all three with a visit to Old Sturbridge Village, where we also witnessed an ox plowing competition, rode on a stagecoach, watched a musketry demonstration, and was amazed by a potter at at work at the wheel, among other things.
Here are some highlights of a most photogenic day.
The Hall of Fame for Great Americans is the nation’s first hall of fame opened in 1900 to honor prominent Americans and located on the campus of the Bronx Community College in New York. It was originally part of New York University’s Bronx campus (NYU sold the campus to BCC in 1973) and for many years was a major New York City attraction. Today it is off the beaten path – and there have been no inductions since 1976 – but it is nevertheless a well-maintained outdoor sculpture park in a 630-foot colonnade designed by Stanford White. I’m aware of it because my mother grew up in the adjacent neighborhood and it was one of her favorite places, partially due to the panoramic views of the Harlem River which are now obstructed by taller trees and new construction. Yesterday I paid a return visit with my mother and son.
As you might expect from a grouping selected primarily in the first half of the 20th-century, the Americans represented here are almost all white men, broken down into the following groups: Statesmen, Scientists, Jurists, Teachers, Musicians, Artists and Writers (I may have forgotten a category). There are more women than I expected (although still a small number) and only two African-Americans I think it would be fascinating to see who would be inducted if they continued adding to the current 102 inductees.
Off the top of my head, I put together a list of people I’d consider for induction following the rules that they be United States born or naturalized and deceased for at least 25 years. A lot of these are no-brainers, some may make you scratch your head, and others may even be controversial. Let me know what you think, and add your own nominees in the comments.
Pocahontas 1596 1617
Anne Hutchinson 1591 1643
Metacomet 1638 1676
Phillis Wheatley 1753 1784
Merriwether Lewis 1774 1809
Sacagawea 1788 1812
Abigail Adams 1744 1818
Nat Turner 1800 1831
William Clark 1770 1838
Sequoyah 1770 1843
Charles Bulfinch 1763 1844
John Brown 1800 1859
John Roebling 1806 1869
Crazy Horse 1842 1877
William Lloyd Garrison 1805 1879
Sojourner Truth 1797 1883
Dorothea Dix 1802 1887
Sitting Bull 1831 1890
P.T. Barnum 1810 1891
Frederick Douglass 1818 1895
Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1815 1902
Frederick Law Olmsted 1822 1903
Geronimo 1829 1909
Mary Baker Eddy 1821 1910
Harriet Tubman 1822 1913
John Muir 1838 1914
Isabella Stewart Gardner 1840 1924
Samuel Gompers 1850 1924
John Singer Sargent 1856 1925
Eugene Debs 1855 1926
Victoria Woodhull 1838 1927
Stephen Mather 1867 1930
Will Rogers 1879 1935
Huey Long 1893 1935
Bessie Smith 1894 1937
George Gershwin 1898 1937
Amelia Earhart 1897 1937
Nikola Tesla 1856 1943
Ida Tarbell 1857 1944
Fiorello LaGuardia 1882 1947
Babe Ruth 1895 1948
Edwin Hubble 1889 1953
Jim Thorpe 1887 1953
Charlie Parker 1920 1955
Mary McLeod Bethune 1875 1955
Jackson Pollock 1912 1956
Buddy Holly 1936 1959
Frank Lloyd Wright 1867 1959
Ernest Hemingway 1899 1961
William Faulkner 1897 1962
Eleanor Roosevelt 1884 1962
W.E.B. Du Bois 1868 1963
Rachel Carson 1907 1964
Flannery O’Connor 1925 1964
Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) 1925 1965
Walt Disney 1901 1966
Margaret Sanger 1879 1966
Gus Grissom 1926 1967
Edward Hopper 1882 1967
Woody Guthrie 1912 1967
Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929 1968
Thomas Merton 1915 1968
John Steinbeck 1902 1968
Helen Keller 1880 1968
Jimi Hendrix 1942 1970
Louis Armstrong 1901 1971
Jackie Robinson 1919 1972
Roberto Clemente 1934 1972
Jeanette Rankin 1880 1973
Duke Ellington 1899 1974
Paul Robeson 1898 1976
Groucho Marx 1890 1977
Fannie Lou Hamer 1917 1977
Elvis Presley 1935 1977
Harvey Milk 1930 1978
Charles Mingus 1922 1979
A. Phillip Randolph 1889 1979
Dorothy Day 1897 1980
Alfred Hitchcock 1899 1980
Jesse Owens 1913 1980
Muddy Waters 1913 1983
Georgia O’Keeffe 1887 1986
Christa McAuliffe 1948 1986
Lucille Ball 1911 1986
Benny Goodman 1909 1986
Andy Warhol 1928 1987
James Baldwin 1924 1987
Bayard Rustin 1912 1987
Richard Feynman 1918 1988
Jim Henson 1936 1990
Frank Capra 1897 1991
Another visit to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. This time I focused on exploring the galleries of the Art of the Americas wing on Level G and Level 1 (I already saw the 20th century art on Level 3 on my first visit). These galleries contain largely art of the United States from colonial times to the mid-1800s. There is also a few good galleries of pre-Columbian art from Mesoamerica and a gallery of North American Native Peoples. The latter gallery mixes art from centuries ago with 20th and 21st century works by Native American artists which makes for interesting comparison and contrast of art motifs over time, but I also wonder why they don’t display them in the 20th century or contemporary galleries like the European and United States works. The remainder of the galleries included a delightful mix of United States decorative arts, architecture, portraiture, landscapes, sculpture, and ship’s models arranged over time and sometimes thematically. Then I visited the Japanese Garden outside, a beautiful and peaceful place to finish the day.
I had a surprise afternoon free and so made another visit to one of my favorite places Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Having not visited in 6 months, there were a lot of new exhibitions I hadn’t seen so I focused on those:
- Megacities Asia – 11 artists from 5 cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Delhi, Mumbai, and Seoul) create massive, provocative, and interactive works of art inspired by urban life. The works are spread throughout the galleries of the Museum (and outside, and at Fanueil Hall Marketplace) making for interesting contrasts with other art and human experience.
- #techstyle – fancy and whacky clothing designed with new technology expounds upon the humor and excess of the fashion world.
- Visiting Masterpieces: Pairing Picasso – a simple gallery pairing Picasso’s works on similar subjects from different periods of his artistic style.
- Year of the Monkey – the role of the monkey in Japanese culture explored in art from different eras.
- Ruined: When Cities Fall – cities destroyed by war or abandonment are depicted in haunting images from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.
- The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris – a collection of the Canadian modernist’s paintings of mountains, water, and glaciers in cool colors and streamlined forms. The exhibition is curated by Steve Martin!
- Lawren Harris: Modern Connections from the MFA Collection – adjacent to the Harris exhibit is works of art by his modernist contemporaries with similar styles including Georgia O’Keeffe and Charles Sheeler.
It was a great visit and an enjoyable experience bouncing among masterpieces and brand new creations.
Since I always do things in a prompt manner, yesterday I made my first visit to the Institute of Contemporary Art since they moved from the Back Bay to their new building on the waterfront (which just happened in – OHMYGOD – 2006). Getting there was not easy as the ceaseless construction of new high-rise buildings in the Seaport District put up many barriers. But at last I arrived at the notably spiffy ICA building, cantilevered to overlook Boston Harbor.
Despite the large building, the galleries are a small portion of the building largely on the fourth floor. This means that while I saw pretty much every piece of art on display, it’s probably worth returning for events, performances, films, and new exhibitions.
What I saw:
- Walid Raad – two exhibits. Walkthrough, I couldn’t really get into but The Atlas Group was a fascinating examination of found images of the Lebanese civil wars presented as a fictional archival collection.
- Diane Simpson – sculptures based on clothing, reminiscent of Claes Oldenburg’s sculptures of ordinary objects.
- The Birthday Party – an immersive installation by three Iranian artists.
- ICA Collection: Transcending Material – my favorite pieces were in the permanent collection, some photos below.
I probably spent the longest amount of time in the Poss Family Mediatheque looking at the harbor and watching the 30-minutes of chain reactions in “The Way Things Go” by Peter Fischli and David Weiss, a lesson in physics, chemistry, and film-making.
On another solo visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, I completed touring the Art of Europe galleries, traveling through 17th-century Dutch and Flemish, gaudy 18th-century French decorative art, 19th-century art deemed worthy by the Academy, and finally Impressionism and post-Impressionism.
Then I took the guided tour of the Art of the Americas wing, learning more about old favorites and some new surprises. I’ll probably work my way more methodically through those galleries on my next visit. Before departing I stopped in the Made in the Americas exhibition which was mostly decorative arts and textiles and seemed less interesting than similar exhibits at the Peabody Essex Museum. And I finished with the delightful Musical Instruments collection. I wish I could hear a concert on those instruments.
I made another first time in a long time visit to a Boston institution with a day out at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Unlike the Museum of Fine Arts, there is only one work of art at the Gardner Museum, a collaboration of Mrs. Gardner and thousands of painters, sculptors, designers, architects, and gardeners. This was my first visit since the opening of the new Renzo Piano wing, which is impressive, but seems mostly a utilitarian annex to the historic museum. It was also the first time I’ve been to the museum since photography is allowed, although only of the courtyard on the main level. Plenty of scofflaws took photos from the upper levels too, but were only stopped by the guards when using flash. I followed Mrs. Gardner’s preference of immersing myself in the art and beauty.
This will be the first of several posts from a Spring Break trip to New York City with my mother and my son.
One highlight of the trip was a visit the American Museum of Natural History. I hadn’t visited the museum since I was a child, and several galleries were much as I remembered. The AMNH is known for it’s “dead zoo” collections of preserved animals set up in naturalistic dioramas. I noticed in the African mammals gallery how all the displays were surrounded by marble and carved friezes which made me realize just how much money went into the museum when it was built. A nearby gallery of mammals from New York State showed that the money was not spread around evenly as it was just simple cases with the pelts of various animals pinned to the wall. We also explored the halls of North American mammals, Asian mammals, and ocean life. The highlight of any visit to the AMNH are the two galleries of dinosaur fossils which are vastly different from my childhood with the new scientific understanding of dinosaurs incorporated in the exhibits.
We visited only a fraction of the museum and will have to return to explore more.
Some of my favorite photos from our recent trip to Virginia are below. See the complete photo album on my website.
For Spring Break, my son Peter and I traveled to Virginia to visit my mother and play tourist at Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Jamestowne, and Go-Karts Plus. It was three-day trip but it felt like we saw and learned a lot. Now, I once lived in Williamsburg. I attended the College of William & Mary, worked on an archaeological site as part of a field school, studied 18th-century furniture at the art museums, and then was an employee of Colonial Williamsburg for four years during my senior year of college and the years immediately afterwards. So, these places are familiar to me. But this was the first time I’d visited as just a plain old tourist in close to 25 years, and the first time I visited as a parent, sharing my enthusiasm for history with my son.
We actually visited few of the sites I actually worked at in my time as a historical interpreter as Peter was drawn more to the historic trades (which, ironically, I rarely had time to visit when I actually worked there). For a place rooted in history, a lot has changed at Colonial Williamsburg. The Charlton Coffehouse was reconstructed in recent years and we enjoyed the unexpected treat of a free serving of hot chocolate of an 18th-century recipe. There’s also a daily event called Revolution in the Streets where the last block of Duke of Gloucester street is open only to paying guests and character interpreters perform a drama right in the middle of the crowd. The story we witnessed was about a slave couple deciding to “jump the broom” to marry before the man was taken away to Richmond (for some reason I never learned). We were among the witnesses to the jumping the broom ceremony which involved everyone participating in song and dance. It is kind of cheesy and probably not 100% authentic, but I think it gets across the point of what daily life and choices were faced by ordinary people of the past. I liked it better than the military reviews and speeches by great men that are more typical of living history performance.
Related Post: Jamestown 2007 – America’s 400th Anniversary
My son & I spent the Columbus Day Weekend in Washington, D.C. Some of my favorite photos from the weekend are below, the rest are here.
A few photos from a visit to Boston’s Museum of Science with my son this weekend.
My son and I journeyed to the Ecotarium for Free Fun Fridays. The Ecotarium is a science museum surrounded by outdoor compound including nature trails, animal exhibits, a playground, and even a train ride. We had a great time with the only downside being that my parochial Bostonian view found the drive to Worcester a bit too long.
Jamaica Plain continued welcoming in the spring with Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum. We took some time to pedal our bikes and sniff the petals. Here are a few photos.
Last night we returned to Drumlin Farm for the Friday Evening Hayride. Farmer Caroline drove the tractor out to through the fields. Along the way Drumlin Farm educator Debbie taught us that we were in fact taking a strawride and that Drumlin Farm has been under cultivation for 250 years. Of course, around these parts I wondered “only 250 years?”
We stopped by a campfire to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. Then we sang “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Drumlin” for Farmer Caroline and a song about a farm called “Muscle and Arm.” Then we heard a native American story about our special evening visitor, a screech owl!
A good time was had by all.
This week marks yet another anniversary in which the number of years being marked is increasingly baffling. 30 years ago on Easter weekend my father took my sister and I for my first visit to the city of Boston (Easter was on April 6th that year so let’s just say we arrived on April 5th).
Here’s what I can remember:
- Our first day there it rained. A lot. I have a specific memory of walking past the Boston Massacre marker while being pelted by sheets of rain and wind.
- Easter Sunday, however, was beautiful and sunny. We walked around Boston Common and the Public Garden in our Sunday best.
- It really annoyed our Dad that we insisted on walking toe-to-toe along the red paint of the Freedom Trail. As a dad myself now I can understand how frustrating it is when the little ones dawdle.
- I really enjoyed visiting historic sites like the USS Constitution and Bunker Hill. From that point on I loved to read about history and visit historical sites whenever possible.
- I’m pretty sure we went to the Childrens Museum too. It was a busy weekend. This was back when the Childrens Museum had the giant’s desktop and grandma’s attic. I miss those exhibits.
- It’s really eerie to think that this weekend really set the course for my future careers in museums and libraries as well as moving to Boston.
Author: Ulrich Boser
Title: The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft
Publication Info: Smithsonian (2009)
For the 20th anniversary of the theft of 13 priceless art works from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, I read this book detailing the heist. The first chapter gives a blow-by-blow of all the known details of the heist itself in the early-morning hours of March 17, 1990. Next, Boser introduces Harold Smith, an art detective who dedicates many of the remaining years of his life gathering clues and following leads about the heist. After Smith dies in 2005, Boser himself picks up Smith’s casebook and begins immersing himself in the case to the point of obsession. The trail of the crime leads Boser to look into various Boston underworld characters such as a noted art thief, Whitey Bulger and his mob cronies, and even the Irish Republican Army. At one point the obsession gets ridiculous as Boser visits a town in Ireland thinking he’ll be able to pick Bulger off the street. In the end, there’s no solution yet for the mystery of missing art, but Boser gives some interesting insights into how art theft is perpetrated and how that art may hopefully be returned.
Recommended books: Dead Certainties : Unwarranted Speculations by Simon Schama, Legends of Winter Hill: Cops, Con Men, and Joe McCain, the Last Real Detective by Jay Atkinson, and Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr
When I was a kid I liked to visit farm museums where I could see all sorts of farm animals and a different way of life from my suburban upbringing. I’ve written about a couple of these magical places before – The Stamford Museum and Nature Center and Old MacDonald’s Farm. As an adult I’ve found it difficult to recapture the magic when visiting farm attractions as they’re either dismally small and depressing or so over-commercialized and packed with stuff that really have nothing to do with a farm.
So it was with great delight that I visited the MassAudobon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, MA. It helps that I went accompanied by a toddler so everything was doubly fun. It’s a place where one can commune with sheep, pigs, goats, cows, deer, owls, and chickens. The tractor is vintage and it pulls a no-frills hayride around the farm. Not only that, but better than any of the places I visited as a child this is a functioning farm, growing produce for sale and divvied up among CSA shares. Drumlin Farm is a beautiful, educational, and magical place.
More photos below.