It seemed like a good introduction to the show we had been reading about, at the New York Historical Society: Audubon's Aviary: Part I of the Complete Flock. I doubt we'll ever get to see the other two parts of this magnificent series, but the first part alone was a feast. It begins with Audubon's very earliest efforts to record his observations of birds, when he was a young man of less than twenty years in post-Revolutionary France (he was born in Haiti in 1985, and brought up in his father's native France.) Though self-taught, even his earliest images were painted with extraordinary skill, to judge by a selection from a recently-discovered stash. Working at first from dead specimens, he developed his dramatic, super life-like, stop-action style following his immigration to the United States (on a fake passport, it seems: chalk one up for illegals!) This first installment offers a breathtaking array of subjects...
(These two cell phone pictures, I confess, were pirated. They were taken in all innocence before I overheard a guard admonishing another visitor that photography was not permitted.) It was an inspired idea to supplement the exhibition with an audio set that allows the visitor to listen in on the songs of the vast majority of the birds. The variety, as of the species themselves, is astonishing--and deeply pleasing.
Before leaving the Historical Society, we stopped for lunch in their very pleasant dining room, a very spacious, high-ceilinged room--we suspect this must have been a private mansion in its former life--with shelves of elegant dish ware, much of it bone white, set in long rows against the white walls. A good, simple lunch, too. After which we set out for was was to be our last walk across Central Park, now covered everywhere with snow...
... and looking quite spectacular. With the tall buildings south, east and west all hidden by the trees and the traffic sounds muffled by the snow, you'd almost think yourself our for a stroll in the winter countryside.
We continued on over to Park and turned south toward the old Armory, where we planned to see the smaller gallery dealers' fair, concurrent with the big shows down on the piers. Passing the Asia Society along the way, we stopped in to see what might be showing in their museum==but discovered that it was the same Chinese scroll painting exhibition we saw in a more complete version in Santa Barbara a couple of months ago--and where I did a "One Hour/One Painting" session for the museum docents.
On to the Armory, then, a grand old-fashioned building with massive wooden paneling everywhere and floors that echo with each footfall. The show proved to be well worth the extra effort--much smaller than the others, but with art of a generally much higher quality, exhibited in something less of a crush and with less of a high-powered sales pitch. We wandered through the aisles and came upon some old friends to chat with, some new friends to get acquainted with.
By now somewhat footsore, not only from this last day but from a week's worth of pavement-pounding in the city streets--we must have walked many miles in our few days here--we succumbed to the temptation to take a taxi back across the park. Once home, we rested up for a while before taking to the streets again in search of dinner. Happy to have found in A.G.Bistro (Columbus at 95th) an excellent restaurant for a last New York dinner before flying back to the West Coast tomorrow.
(Today, I write this entry as we await our car for JFK. We hope for an easy flight and an uneventful return home.)