Our first stop was the show that Ellie had been anxious to see, Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity (sorry, no pictures allowed in the exhibitions)--a collection of images by mostly familiar Impressionist artists complemented by showcases featuring magnificent examples of dresses and accessories from the period, some of them actually featured in the paintings. A plethora of information, too, on printed cards, with notes about the cultural context and ample quotations from astute contemporaneous observers like the poet Charles Baudelaire. An exhibition rich in ideas and visual bonbons, and one that illuminated and expanded on the Impressionist movement as not merely a revolution in the painting process, but also as a record of vast--and lasting--social change.
A second feast in store was Matisse: In Search of True Painting--a study of that great artist's process through the adjacent exhibition of two, three or more paintings of identical subjects, worked on either at the same time or--in the case of a selection of images of Notre Dame cathedral--over a period of years. You're invited to see the artist at work, trying different approaches, working and re-working the paint, usually in order to simplify and get down to the essentials. (A reminder, for me, of that favorite writer's adage that I quote, probably too often: How do I know what I think 'til I see what I say?) Here's a painter, working through his medium, to find out what it is he needs to say. The last room of the exhibition is a stunner: a collection of the late paintings done in Vence, each executed with the authority and seeming ease of a great master, the culmination of the persistent efforts that went into becoming one.
We found a nice cafeteria for lunch, looking out over Central Park and the obelisk...
... then spent a while wandering through the almost ridiculously wealthy treasure house of human history and artistic achievement that is the Metropolitan Museum. Look at this...
See what I mean? Dd you ever see anything like it? Where do you start? Where do you end?
We ended because it was time to head back across the park for the dance performance we had bought tickets for. Time for a quick stop for a cafe mocha at a tiny coffee shop on Columbus, then on to the Lincoln Center where we found the theater lobby packed with what seemed like the social elite of New York City, the men in tuxedos, the women in high fashion--and six-inch heels!--all gathering for what we learned to our surprise was the gala opening of the current Paul Taylor Dance Company celebration. (The now 82-year-old master of choreography, lone survivor of the great period of modern dance, made an appearance with his troupe at the end of the performance and received the ovation of a lifetime.) I felt more than a little underdressed in jeans and open-neck shirt but I found others like me seated in the first balcony, where we had an excellent view of the stage.
It was a truly pleasurable evening. The dances were charming, I thought--but not electrifying. I'm no expert in the art of modern dance, but having read the program notes in advance of the curtain rising--and based on Paul Taylor's reputation--I was hoping for something a little more edgy than the four pieces that were performed. Taylor, I understand, is known for having been unafraid to address the dark side of human experience. For this evening, perhaps appropriately for the occasion, all was whimsy, sweetness and light.
We stopped at NiceMatin on Amsterdam for dinner on the way back to our apartment and ordered more than we should have done, and more than we could eat. A nice young waiter, an aspiring actor on his way to graduate work, was at pains to tell us about the restaurant's current "Stinky Cheese" festival, and brought us a sample of the offensive stuff. It proved not too terribly stinky and quite mild to the taste. Tomorrow--today, actually, as I write--is our last one in New York. The weather forecast warns us that a storm is headed our way. We're hoping it will not leave us stranded on our extended journey to Fort Worth.