Small Moments of Happiness: August 2020

The staircase at Hillwood Mansion and Museum. The late owner, Mrs. Post, bought many Russian art pieces from her time as the ambassador’s wife to the USSR.

I’m glad August is almost behind us. While I try to find something good in the everyday, it’s really hard to sit back and relax when the world around me is on fire. There was yet another shooting of an unarmed Black man by police. He is alive but paralyzed from the waist down. I can’t in all good conscience sit here and count my blessings when so many families are suffering from so much tragedy. That said, I did find the Democratic National Convention hopeful. It gave me hope for what is to come this November. My favorite part about the DNC was the roll call. If you want to virtually travel across the US and territories, then please watch this amazing roll call.

I also visited two museums in August, the National Gallery of Art (see a short tour here) and Hillwood Mansion and Museum. It was wonderful to meander through near-empty rooms admiring art. I won’t do it again anytime soon, but these two excursions should tide me over until there is a vaccine.

How are you? Are you slowly venturing outside again?

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #72 (Some art for your soul.)

A silk needlework Coat of Arms of the Williams and Bell families of Boston, currently on view at the National Gallery of Art.

Today’s reading links are about the exhibits during my recent visit to the National Gallery of Art. The NGA is one of my favorite museums in Washington, D.C. and it’s open with advanced, timed tickets. The museum did an excellent job of controlling the crowd size.

Visitors had access to the ground floor galleries of the West Building, which allowed me to view the Rodin sculptures, the Degas at the Opéra exhibit and the ongoing Masterpieces of American Furniture exhibit. It was glorious!

I was charmed by this Manet painting. Flowers in a Crystal Vase, c.1882.

I was charmed by this Manet painting. I love the pink, blue and maroon color scheme in the bouquet. It may have been painted in 1882, but this is something we’d see in our homes today. Pretty and timeless.

Vines Seen through a Window, oil on paper. Max Hauschild, German, 1810-1895

I took some time to study this painting. I love the peek into nature. It’s a perfect prelude to the end of summer and start of autumn. I wonder if the artist conjured it out of his mind or if he was inspired after visiting a friend’s home. It’s on loan to the NGA from the Fondation Custodia in Paris and since I can’t be in Paris right now then at least the European paintings can come to me.

Study of a Tree, French(?), 19th Century. Private Collection London

Last painting, I promise. Out of all the paintings on display during my recent visit to the NGA, this painting is my favorite. It’s just so beautiful and peaceful. I’d love it if this was a wallpaper for my house. It belongs to a private collection in London and the artist is unknown. Thank you so much to the generous person for loaning their masterpiece to the NGA. How beautiful is this?

I hope you take some time out of your day to smell the roses and enjoy the small pleasures of life.

xoxo, Jane

My Favorite Museum Guidebooks

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Museums worldwide are doing a fabulous job of keeping us entertained, informed and connected through their online programs and exhibits. It’s a wonderful diversion during these troubling times, that’s for sure.

Am I the only one who loves to purchase museum guidebooks after a visit? I don’t do it for every museum, just for those very special museums.

Here are three of my favorite museum guidebooks. Be sure to share your favorite museum guidebooks in the comments.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I could live inside the Met. Since that’s not possible, their website has countless exhibits, paintings and articles to enjoy, such as this fun online exhibit about their new British Galleries. The Met is amazing for many reasons. One reason is that it represents 5000 years of art. Blows my mind.

The guidebook I bought is like holding the museum in my hands. It’s filled with paintings, decorative arts, photographs and articles to explain each object. Plus it’s a beautiful book.

I bought my book a number of years ago with an introduction by a previous Met director, but a quick glance online shows me that the guidebooks have been updated with a new introduction by the Met’s new director. In case you care about such things, the current director is Max Hollein. He has been the director since 2018 and hails from Austria. I digress, if you could buy only one museum guidebook, it should be this one.

National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is pretty special. It was created because of a major donation from Andrew W. Mellon. He was Secretary of the Treasury under four US presidents and firmly believed that the United States should have a national museum devoted to art, just like the European capitals. Mellon purchased 21 spectacular masterpieces from the Hermitage Museum in Russia and in 1937 donated them to the Federal Government with the aim of opening this museum. History aside, this museum has one of my favorite paintings by Da Vinci, Ginevra de’ Benci. I look forward to visiting her again when Covid-19 is far, far behind us. It appears that my guidebook isn’t for sale anymore (it’s a very old copy), but this is their newer version.

Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum needs no introduction from me. It has pieces dating back to 8000 BC and I cannot comprehend that, it’s so incredible. In five visits, I have yet to see everything.

I’m sure there are a gazillion different guidebooks for the Louvre Museum, but I own a thin copy bought many years ago during my first trip to France. It holds a special place in my heart because I love Paris and the Louvre Museum so much. For a smallish book, it’s quite comprehensive and satisfies my desire to read a little bit about everything. I don’t think my book is for sale anymore, but I believe this is a similar version with an updated cover.

I hope you enjoyed a tour of my three favorite museum guidebooks. Have a great weekend (whatever a weekend is anymore)!

xoxo, Jane

Virtual Museum Tours

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Spring is nigh.

There is so much anxiety right now (me!). The unknown can be unsettling, to say the least. I would normally wander around a museum to ease worries or anxiety,  but since I (most of us) can’t do that, I thought I’d share my three favorite museums with you. You can enjoy these virtual tours from the comfort of your home and with a nice cup of tea.

Hillwood Mansion and Museum

Hillwood Mansion and Museum is a delight. It was the home of Marjorie Post (of Post Cereal). The mansion is filled with decorative arts (such as Faberge, jewels and her fashionable wardrobe), paintings and multiple gardens to dream about. The current exhibition, Natural Beauties: Exquisite Works of Minerals and Gems, ends in June. I’m especially excited about the upcoming exhibition in June, Roaring Twenties: The Life and Style of Marjorie Merriweather Post.

National Gallery of Art

National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is a gem of a museum. One of the current exhibits is on Degas. Also, the museum has in its collection a Da Vinci painting. If you follow them on Instagram, their stories will take you on tours of each floor. It’s really sweet how much effort the staff is putting into this.

Victoria and Albert Museum

Victoria and Albert Museum is currently open, but those not near London can at least enjoy the collection from the comfort of home. To get you started, they have a collection of gorgeous wallpaper (I love wallpaper), illuminated manuscripts and embroidery.

I hope you visit these museums online. If you do, let me know what you think. If you’d like, feel free to share some of your favorite museums.

xoxo, Jane

Thursday Reading Links #32

photo of cat lying on bed

Well, it may be fall but it feels like winter in my neck of the woods. Stay warm and cozy, wherever you may be. 

Libraries to boycott publisher’s e-book policy

My recent quarterly reading wrap-up can be found here and here.

This is so dear. Fake chimneys for birds that need vertical hollows to rest.

Marie Antoinette’s Favorite Things You Can Still Buy Today.

Did you know that Danielle Steel has a blog? And she updates regularly.

Cute To Go Tea Mug

In praise of having a “boring” wardrobe. (This is from The Telegraph and there may be a log-in required if you exceeded your free articles per month.)

The best pore-cleansing toners and the best new face washes

On this day in 1916, Jeannette Rankin from Montana became the first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. She was one of the few suffragists elected to Congress, and the only Member of Congress to vote against U.S. participation in both World War I and World War II. 

It never ceases to amaze me that we have such incredible art right here in my city of Washington, D.C., such as this historic painting of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David. The National Gallery of Art published a wonderful publication about French paintings of the 19th century and can be read here for free. 

November babies, I guess life is more interesting as a Scorpio

xoxo, Jane

Image via Pexels.com

 

Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honoré Fragonard

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One of my favorite paintings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. is Young Girl Reading (or The Reader) by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732 – 1806). I love it so much that I have a replica in my study.

Why do I love it? I’m drawn to it because as a reader I find peace in the young woman. She is leaning against a plush pillow while reading a captivating story. It makes me happy whenever I glance at it.

The muted colors are soothing and beautiful. I never knew yellow, mauve and lavender could go so well together.

I wanted to know the story behind the painting (if there was one) and paid a visit to NGA’s website. There isn’t a mystery surrounding this painting. It’s simply described as “a representation of a demure model in a lemon-yellow dress seated at a window ledge.” But I finally learned the artist’s name, Jean-Honoré Fragonard. (It’s awful to admit, but all these years I only cared about the girl in the painting and never bothered to learn the artist’s name.)

The first thing that came to mind when I learned the name was the perfumer Fragonard, based in Grasse, France. Fragonard (the artist) was from Grasse and when Fragonard (the company) established itself in 1926, they decided to name the company after their most famous resident, “as a tribute to both the town of Grasse and to the refinement of 18th-century arts.”

And there you have it. A little story about a beautiful painting that took me down a rabbit hole.

Do you have a favorite painting? Or one that you are drawn to for one reason or another?

xoxo, Jane