“Since we’re going to Central Park, let’s go to the Met too!” Nina said in joyous inspiration as I drank my espresso, unimpressed. I hadn’t agreed to go to Central Park and she already had us touring a museum! Wasn’t Central Park that black hole where innocent little animals disappeared? Nina isn’t renowned for her inner-GPS at the best of times. I had visions of us wandering its labyrinthine paths until dark engulfed us, trapping us there. Never mind the Met…
I just sipped my espresso without a word.
“Look!” she pointed at the brochure she was holding. “They’re showing the drawings of Bronzino!” She knew that would twig my interest, but I wasn’t biting. I didn’t look up and continued to sip in silence. Back in the 1500s, Bronzino was a painter, draftsman, academician, and enormously witty poet, who became famous as the court artist to the Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici in Florence. His sketches are evocative celebrations of lyrical sensuality.
So, don’t get me wrong… I’m Toulouse LeTrek, the cool cat, the cultured cat. A famous artist was named after me, after all. I visited le Musée d’Orsay
when I was just a kitten. I climbed the cobbled streets and steps of Montmartre to watch the artists paint. I used to scamper between the legs of up-and-coming artists, testing their balance and fortitude. I appreciate good art. But getting lost in Central Park to get there wasn’t my idea of a civilized tour.
But Nina had already observed that my coffee was gone and I was holding the cup just to stall. She grinned. Out came her blue backpack and in I went. POOF! (I hate it when she does that.) She darted out of our tiny hotel room in the Pod (a Euro-style hostel-like hotel) and took the subway to 86th Street. From there we walked… and walked… and walked…
You get the picture.
We finally found the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the eastern side of Central Park at 1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street. Nina had her heart set on seeing the Roman and Greek sculptures on the first floor. I, of course, was eager to re-acquaint myself with my favorite Impressionist artists and the Bronzino drawings on the second floor. We agreed to separate and meet at the American Wing Café in two hours. Well, it sounded like a good idea at the time…
I made my way upstairs and first toured through the Bronzino exhibit. I then ambled along the B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Gallery where Academic Classicist painter Pierre Auguste Cot’s splendid paintings, The Storm and Springtime hung. I had to linger for a time, breathing in his incredible use of light to evoke vibrant life, movement and intensity of presence. He’s one of my favorites; and that’s not just because he studied at l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Toulouse before going to Paris. :-3
From there, I entered the Annenberg Collection of 19th and Early 20th Century European Paintings, ranging from French Romanticism to Post-Impressionism. I wandered from gallery to gallery, peering at works by the likes of Manet, Degas, Pissarro, Renoir, Monet and Van Gogh.
I nosed up to them, appreciating the brashly visible brush strokes, open composition, and emphasis on light in its changing qualities. Impressionists often
chose ordinary things to depict in their art, taking mundane scenes and portraying them from unique angles and giving them movement. The Impressionists captured the transient effects of sunlight by painting en plein air. They broke from tradition with short “broken” brush strokes of mixed and pure unmixed colour, not smoothly blended or shaded. Pissaro’s and Monet’s works, particularly, are good for studying the use of textured brush-strokes, using light to dapple, highlight, focus or diffuse. Impressionists painted with vivid light. They gave it a human emotion. One of the best places to see French Impressionist art is at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, but the Met has its share.
I’d parked myself in Monet’s gallery and was minding my own business, “communing” with La Grenouillère, Sunflowers, Rouen Cathedral, Path in Vetheuil, when a tiny shriek behind me broke my reverie. A young women and her daughter had discovered me!
“What a sweet stuffed cat!”
Had she no shame? No decency? I puffed myself up as best as I could and
offered her a cultured scowl. Didn’t she recognize me? I wasn’t just ANY stuffed cat. I was ”stuffed” with a dinner’s worth of escargots, mussels and spaghetti. I was Toulouse LeTrek, the COOL Travel Cat! Perhaps separating wasn’t such a good idea, I reflected, searching for the quickest way to escape as they approached me with covetous curiosity glinting in their eyes.
I scampered out of there and scurried downstairs–my little heart thumping like a drum–and looking for Nina. It was early yet and she wouldn’t be at the restaurant. Fearing other covetous people loitering at the café, I looked for Nina in the likely place: the Roman and Greek galleries. I found a very nice and safe “lady” to chill with and waited for Nina to find me; of course, she did.
All’s well that ends well. I’m the COOL Travel Cat… :-3
Go to Toulouse’s page “Art Up Close with Toulouse” for more details and more articles like this one.
Photos by Nina Munteanu
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