This week, I was able to take a morning (thank you, Gram E!) and meet my mother at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts here in Richmond to see the Picasso exhibit. Mother was there with a group of 40+ people and I only had about two hours to spare, so we didn’t get an extensive visit. But it was so great to see her and to tour even a small portion of the VMFA. I hadn’t been to the museum since Frances and George were born (maybe even before Will and I were married - sad), but stepping in to those cool, marble walls sent me back to those pre-children days when we both thought we were busy, but looking back I have no idea what we did with all of that time that we so clearly had.
The museum has gone through an extensive renovation in the last year or so; it is even more beautiful than it was already (and I always thought it was an incredible building). It is located in old Richmond (the appropriately named “museum district”) surrounded by impeccable brownstone homes, neighborhood parks, and hip restaurants and bars. This neighborhood is one of several that Will and I used to love to stroll through (again, pre-children) and dream about living there knowing full well that we were a) not cool enough to live there; b) not wealthy enough to afford the private school tuition that would be necessary if we did live there; and c) not patient enough to deal with the on-street parking. But, it was still great to dream…
View from the museum's front window
The Picasso exhibit was outstanding. The group decided to use the audio guides, which was exactly the right decision. I always feel a little guilty using an audio guide – as though I am using the Cliffs Notes equivalent to fine art. But ultimately I know enough to know that I don’t know much – and I certainly learned a lot more than I would have simply perusing the paintings and their caption cards.
For example, I learned that by the early age of 12, Picasso could draw true to life. That was quite a surprise from the man who created this:
Dora Marr in an Armchair
My favorite painting in the show was “Still Life on a Pedestal Table.” It had the most vibrant colors of any in the gallery and I knew Frances would like it, too (it had the most purple of any piece, which does not come through as well below, but alas...).
Once we were done with the Picasso exhibition, I only had a few minutes to race around and find some of my old favorites in the museum’s permanent collection. When I was growing up, my parents took us to the museum frequently (considering we lived 2+ hours away) and I have distinct memories of my father’s parents taking us there often when we visited them at their Richmond brownstone home (in another portion of old Richmond, the Fan).
One of my favorite exhibits has always been the Fabergé eggs (we were not allowed to use flash photography, so I apologize for the blurry, dark pictures).
A much better picture of some of the collection
I also have always been drawn to the leaping hare that they’ve housed near the entryway for years. As a child, I think I just loved that it was a rabbit; but as an adult, I now notice the human-like features (actually, very dancer-like).
Again, sorry for the poor lighting
My all-time favorite piece is the Degas sculpture, “Little Dancer.” Unfortunately, it was away on loan this trip, but I will no doubt be back soon with my little dancer(s) and can see it again.
Just beautiful - and that turn-out!
All in all, it was a fantastic morning and left me wanting to go back to the museum as soon as possible. On my way home, I picked Frances up from preschool and told her about my outing – she enthusiastically exclaimed that she wanted to go to the museum. Too quickly, I responded that she’s probably too young now, but maybe in a couple of years when she was five (an eternity to a three-year-old). She immediately rebuffed me explaining that she was a big girl and she wants “to go now, when I’m three.”
I actually think she’s right. I want to do more one-on-one outings with each child and Frances and I will very likely try the museum first.
Her eagerness also shamed me. I will absolutely not turn this blog into my political pedestal (I know and respect too many smart people who are polar opposites from me politically), but the recent talk about the federal government cutting arts programs for children (and in general) has inspired great conversations with friends and family and even greater concerns from me. The ability to appreciate and create art is what makes us uniquely human and I want to instill both in my children as early as possible, even before their silly mother thinks they are able to fully “understand” it.
Well, so much for the fluff piece about “my morning at the art museum.”
Thank you to my wonderful mother for sponsoring my trip and inspiring another mother-daughter trip in the near future!