Monday, January 28, 2008

I started out as a child

A Montrouge" — Rose La Rouge, 1886-87

This week, I'll write some posts about particularly memorable exhibits I've seen over the years. But I have to begin with my early life, growing up just outside of Philadelphia, walking distance to The Barnes Foundation and a quick train ride downtown to The Philadelphia Museum of Art.

I lived one train stop away from Merion, Pennsylvania where Dr. Albert C. Barnes housed his phenomenal collection of paintings and sculpture. While I was growing up, The Barnes would permit 100 visitors, twice a week, 50 with and 50 without reservations. Upon entering the main hall of the house, looking up, you'd see Matisse's mural La Danse II across the length of the top of the facing wall. After that, it was a veritable feast of art work. Barnes had particular theories about curating art and from wall to wall, floor to ceiling were paintings by Matisse, Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso, Rousseau, Modigliani, Van Gogh, Seurat, Manet, Monet, Soutine, Pippin, Demuth, the Prendergasts, much, much more (many of which he'd bought from the artists themselves), and a Hieronymus Bosch you could stand inches from. There was also this oil by Toulouse-Lautrec that once stopped me dead in my tracks. Because of Dr. Barnes idiosyncrasies, none of his collection was permitted to be shown outside of the house so it was a rare treat for an adolescent to wander freely through the rooms and look and look and look That's all changed now and I'm afraid that the old house is soon to be abandoned for new quarters in town.

Walking up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway from the train station to the Philadelphia Museum was a delight in itself, past Moore College of Art, the Franklin Institute, the Rodin Museum, (and all the other landmarks) across the Barnett Newman street painting (long gone), around the Swann Fountain and up the many, many, many steps to the front entrance. Sometimes I felt as though I had the entire museum to myself. I used to sit for long stretches on the bench in front of The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors Even in the Duchamp room. There was an anonymous, probably early 18th century, portrait of some prelate that I would seek out as it was moved from room to room because it had such a mesmerizing presence. I studied drawing at the museum in my late teens.

That's the extent of my musing except to give credit for the title of this post to Bill Cosby, a fellow Philadelphian.

See my paintings at Landscape into Art.

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