Starry, Starry Night by
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Instead of "thinking back" to my youth, here is a potpourri of some of my favorite museums visited in the last dozen years.

I took art lessons briefly as a kid, but I had no artistic talent. And I imagine that my parents took me to art museums when I was young, but I haven’t been able to bring up any memories of that. So instead of “thinking back” to my youth, here is a potpourri of some of my favorite museums visited in the last dozen years.

Paris

Musee de l’Orangerie – Monet’s Water Lilies take up an entire floor of the museum, and are so much more breathtaking than one could imagine just looking at a picture of them. There are eight panels, each one 6 ½ feet tall, with a total width of almost three hundred feet. Here I am standing in front of one of the panels. I wish we had gotten the entire panel in the frame. I think the photographer was more interested in getting a picture of me.

 

The Louvre is so big and overwhelming, I actually like the smaller museums in Paris (of which there are many) much better. But of course one has to go there at least once, even if only to race through and see as many masterpieces as possible. Here is the one and only picture I took at the Louvre on a family trip in 2011. This was as close as Molly could get to Mona, and, while it’s not great of either one of them, I took it to show they were in the same room together.

Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid

There are three wonderful art museums in Madrid, and I only had time to visit one of them on my most recent trip to Spain. I chose the Reina Sofía because Picasso’s Guernica is there, and I wanted to see it in person. It is vast, measuring 11 ½ feet high by 25 ½ feet wide, and has a room all to itself. Unfortunately, photography is prohibited in that room, but a photograph could not begin to capture the enormity of it anyway. In other parts of the museum photography is allowed, so I snapped this Picasso, “Seated Woman Resting on Elbows” just to have something from that museum by Picasso.

 

I also liked this giant sculpture by Roy Lichtenstein in the interior courtyard of the Reina Sofia. Molly thought it looked like a strip of bacon, Ed thought it was a mountain goat. Its title is “Brushstroke.” If you look carefully (or if you click to enlarge it), you can see Molly in the lower left of the picture, which gives you an idea of how big the sculpture is.

 

Two Guggenheims

Apparently there are four Guggenheim Museums scattered around the world (with another one planned in Abu Dhabi), and I have been to two of them, the one in Bilbao, Spain, and the one in New York, which are totally different and both delightful.

Here is a picture in Bilbao, inside the lobby of the museum, looking out. They generally don’t allow photography inside the galleries, and as a result, I don’t remember much about the art, except that it was modern / contemporary.

However, there was an Andy Warhol exhibit when we were there that not only allowed photography, they encouraged it, with signs in three different languages (Basque, Spanish, and English) saying “Share your photos of the exhibition on #WarholGuggenheimByYou.” Here is my photo, which I may or may not have shared with that hashtag, I can’t remember. I do remember that I didn’t realize how well my shirt matched the purple panel until I saw the photo. (Click to enlarge for the full effect.)

The New York Guggenheim Museum is a favorite of mine for the architecture more than the art. The museum is one long continuous spiral ramp, with galleries branching off periodically, and I find that the best way to approach it is to take the elevator up to the top, and then slowly walk around and around until you get to the bottom, stopping in the various galleries on the way down.

 

Three Dalí Museums

I have been to three different Dalí museums in three different countries. Here is the Dalí Theatre and Museum in Figueres, Spain, which is a wonderfully whimsical building designed by the artist himself. He is buried in a crypt beneath the stage of the theatre (which isn’t a functioning theatre; the museum was built around the town theatre that Dalí knew as a child). Figueres was his hometown, and he created the museum himself, saying that his goal was that “people who come to see it will leave with the sensation of having had a theatrical dream.” It was an amazing experience to spend several hours there, and I wish I had taken more pictures.

In contrast, the Dalí Museum in Paris was small and a little disappointing. In fact, the reason we decided to go there was because we had bought museum passes that were good for four consecutive days, and this was our fifth day. We would not have wanted to pay a separate admission for a museum that was free on the pass, but this museum was so small and insignificant that it was not included.

 

The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida actually has the best collection of his work, in my opinion. All of it was acquired by an Ohio couple who started collecting his art in the 1940s, and were patrons and friends of Dalí’s for forty years. They at first displayed their growing collection at home in Ohio, but moved it to Florida in 1982 after a national search for a new location. The current museum was opened in 2011. Its collection of Dalí’s works is second only to the museum in Figueres, and to me it seems much larger and more impressive.

The grounds are lovely too, and filled with Dali-esque touches. Here is a bench outside the museum, with the melting clock motif from one of his most famous paintings, “The Persistence of Memory.” It is somewhat tricky to sit on it, although my daughters managed (well, I guess Molly, on the right, is leaning more than sitting).

 

Thiebaud and the Manetti Shrem Museum

I would be remiss if I didn’t include our fabulous Sacramento artist Wayne Thiebaud (who just celebrated his 100th birthday), who is known for his colorful paintings depicting commonplace objects, especially food, and the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis. Thiebaud donated 72 of his own works and 300 works by other artists to the permanent collection of the Manetti Shrem. This museum opened in 2016 on the campus of the university, and while used for some college art classes, it is open to the public and entirely free. The building itself is a work of art.

Here is a photo I took of one of my favorite Thiebaud paintings hanging at the museum, although it’s not a good idea to look at it when you are hungry!

 


** I know that I omitted any discussion of The Starry Night, and the Museum of Modern Art where it resides, but as those who know me might suspect, my story title is in homage to Don McLean, not Vincent Van Gogh.

 

 

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Characterizations: moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. John Shutkin says:

    This is just a wonderful “potpourri,” Suzy! And not only is it a great idea to give us all a tour of museums, but your focus on some of the less well-known ones (at least to us rubes), makes for a particularly interesting and informative story. And your pictures are a superb complement.

    The only complaint I have — the song title is just fine — is not the least bit your fault; indeed, to the contrary. Your story really makes me want to go out and visit all these museums and, well, that just ain’t gonna happen for a while.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, John. Glad you liked the tour. There were several other museums that I thought about including, but I didn’t have anything story-worthy to say about them, so I left them out. And we’ll all be traveling again before you know it!

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Having been to many of these museums, Suzy, I share your enthusiasm for the wonderful experience of seeing so many important works of art. Someday, I will share our 45-minutes, self-guided tour of the Louvre with our kids, ages 13, 10, and 7. They were so disappointed by the size of Mona.

    • Suzy says:

      Laurie, I would love to know about your 45-minute tour of the Louvre. We spent a little more time there with teenage Molly, but the crowds made it pretty intolerable. And yes, the size of Mona is very disappointing, and the fact that you can’t get anywhere near her.

  3. Suzy, I love your tour of museums you’ve visited around the world! I’m sure on other trips to Spain you’ve been to the Prado and seen Velasquez’ Les Meninas. Luckily I was there when Picasso’s version of the little princess was on loan and hung near the master’s!

    I too love Thiebaud and Warhol, hope you’ve been to the Warhol Museum in his hometown Pittsburgh.

    And your reference to the several Guggenheim museums reminded me of a related experience – visiting the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice. Can’t say I remember the art as much as the building, certainly a unique location on the Grand Canal!

    • Suzy says:

      Yes, I’ve been to the Prado on an earlier trip and seen all the wonderful paintings there. Would have loved to go again on this later trip, but we only had one day in Madrid, our last day before flying home, so we opted for the Reina Sofía.

      I have only been to Pittsburgh once, to visit a friend from the McCarthy campaign, and we did go to a museum, but I don’t think it was the Warhol. If I ever go back there, I’ll check it out.

      The list of Guggenheim museums I saw online included Peggy’s in Venice. I don’t know if she would appreciate being lumped in with Solomon or not. I’m sorry now that I didn’t go to that one when I was in Venice.

  4. Betsy Pfau says:

    Great trip through many wonderful museums, Suzy. I have only been to the Guggenheim in NYC (we were supposed to go to Bilbao on a cruise last spring, but we know what happened to that), and the Paris museums. The first time we went to the Louvre was on a rainy Wednesday. We didn’t know that schools let out at noon, so half the children of Paris were there, running around. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough! Thank you for sharing so many wonderful photos and insights, and yes, you look wonderful in front of that Warhol!

    • Suzy says:

      I wonder if there is ever a time when the Louvre isn’t crowded. But Wednesday afternoons with half the schoolchildren of Paris sounds like the absolute worst! I guess we should be glad that Parisian children choose to spend their free afternoon in a museum, but it does make it hard for the rest of us!

  5. Without people like you, Suzy, these fabulous museums wouldn’t exist. You are so fortunate to have been to so many and seen so much great art! Re Starry Night, wondering if you have seen or are planning on seeing the immersive multi-sensory Van Gogh exhibition making the rounds?

    • Suzy says:

      As I said to John, there are many other museums I left out. I feel very fortunate to have been to so many. My husband complains that our trips to Europe are always just museums and cathedrals, which isn’t quite true, but I do enjoy visiting both of those.

      I don’t know anything about the Van Gogh exhibition you mention, but I would love to see it! Looking online, it seems that its first US stop is the Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, then Indianapolis and Chicago.

  6. Marian says:

    Thanks for the great tour, Suzy, it rounds out my experiences. I’ll have to go see the Thiebauds at UC Davis when the pandemic ends. The building looks amazing.

  7. Jeff Gerken says:

    Nice photographs, and nice pictures of your daughters as well.

    Roy Lichtenstein was a graduate of The Ohio State University, and one of the “Brushstrokes” sculptures, “Brushstrokes in Flight” is exhibited at the John Glenn Airport in Columbus. It is not nearly as large as the one you photographed.

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks, Jeff. I’m sure Molly would not be happy if she knew I had posted the one of her with Mona Lisa, it’s not the most flattering. But she is her beautiful self on the Dalí bench and with the Lichtenstein sculpture. And thanks for telling me about Lichtenstein, I will try to think of a reason to fly to Columbus so I can see the sculpture you mention.

  8. This is an artistic abundance worthy of enjoying on a day we are losing a thuggish leader who demeans the creative arts, and getting a new president! Thanks for this grand tour. Off the top of my head, I have two suggestions that may be less widely known, if you’re still seeking more art adventures: (a) Fondation Maeght in St. Paul de Vence, in the Provence region/south of France; (b) The Frida Kahlo house/museum in Mexico City.

  9. Risa Nye says:

    Suzy, since we can’t go anywhere for the next who-knows-how-long, it was nice to see some of these museums–many of which I have visited myself! While I was writing about the purse museum in Little Rock, I recalled memories of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, also in Arkansas. Built with Walton family money, this is a truly beautiful museum, free to the public.

  10. Suzy, I must say thanx again for your wonderful museum tour and add another not-to-miss museum – the marvelous Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum.

  11. If you ever have a chance, visit the Munch museum in Oslo. “The Scream” is there.

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