december family affairs

Monday, December 7:  This evening, Mike and I took Adam and his friend Aeryn to dinner at Sakura Japanese Steak, Seafood House & Sushi Bar for Adam’s 23rd birthday.

Adam, Mike and me at Sakura Japanese Steakhouse
Adam, Mike and me at Sakura Japanese Steakhouse

We were having a fun time and everyone was upbeat until I mistakenly made a comment which upset Adam.  The evening suddenly became very tense.  I remember when Adam was about 4 years old; he threw a temper tantrum at his own birthday party because he wasn’t getting his way.  We had to put him in his room for a time-out at his own birthday party!  This kid is a tough one, but of course I love him dearly!

Thursday, December 24: On Christmas Eve, we have our family tradition of visiting Washington National Cathedral.  First we take a walk around the Cathedral.

Washington National Cathedral
Washington National Cathedral
the cottage on the Cathedral grounds
the cottage on the Cathedral grounds
looking up
looking up

It’s quite a warm today for Christmas Eve, but it’s also rather dreary.

After walking around the Cathedral proper, we walk through the crèches on display during every holiday season.  Below is my favorite, created by Zulu tribeswomen in South Africa.  Each fabric figure is almost completely covered with tiny, individually hand-sewn glass beads.  Even the zebra and lion come to pay homage to the Christ Child.

South African creche
South African creche

The Mexican beaded nacimiento was made by the Huichol Indians, noted in Mexico for the degree to which they have preserved their native speech, religion and culture.  The Wise Men bear gifts in the form of stylized flowers.  A tiny native frog also witnesses the holy birth.

The Polish form of nativity is called a Szopka and is traditionally associated with the city of Krakow.  Szopka makers utilize colorful candy and gum wrappers, as well as specially made foils.

The pottery nacimiento from El Salvador shows a small brown frog attending.  A tortilla maker, complete with her grinding stone is also present at the birth, as is a little shepherdess wearing a broad-brimmed hat.

The Jordanian nativity was created at the Aqabat Jaber refugee camp, then in Jordan. It features clothing that is thought to be similar to that worn by Mary, Joseph and the shepherds on that first Christmas Eve.

The Kenyan hand-carved crèche includes additions to the traditional animals of ox and ass, including an African antelope, and both a mother and baby elephant and rhinoceros, all commonly found in Kenya.

The Indonesian mahogany crèche was made by physically challenged people on the island of Java.

The Bolivian fabric nacimiento was made by the Aymaras and Quechuas Indians from the Altiplano region.  Each of the figures is wearing the native dress of the Bolivian Highlands.

After browsing through the crèches, we take the elevator to the tower where we have some sweeping views of northwest Washington.

the view from the tower
the view from the tower

We can see the Cathedral gardens below, so we take the elevator down and take a stroll through the gardens.

view of the Cathedral gardens
view of the Cathedral gardens

It’s plenty warm today, although a little damp.

After we leave the Cathedral, we always stop at the Lebanese Taverna Market for lunch. Then we go home to relax awhile, and finish any last-minute wrapping, before we go to Christmas eve dinner at Mike’s sister’s house.  Barbara loves to decorate for Christmas.  She still lives in her mom’s (my mother-in-law Shirley’s) house.  Though I was in China last Christmas, the first Christmas since Shirley died in July of 2014, this Christmas just wasn’t the same without her.  I really miss her.

Christmas tree at Mike's sister's house
Christmas tree at Mike’s sister’s house

We enjoy a wonderful dinner, eat lots of cookies and Barbara’s famous gold rush brownies, and exchange gifts.

Friday, December 25: On Christmas morning, it’s just Mike and I and the boys.  Sarah is spending Christmas at her dad’s house in Virginia Beach, so we’ll go visit her later.  Barbara comes over later for our Christmas brunch, also our family tradition.  I don’t know why I forget to take any pictures of us on Christmas day!

Our tree on Christmas morning
Our tree on Christmas morning
Close-up of the tree
Close-up of the tree

Wednesday, December 30:  We drive to Richmond to take Sarah her gifts and have lunch with her.  Then we go to visit my dad and stepmother in Yorktown, where we spend the night.

Thursday, December 31: Heading home, we drive up Route 17, a much quieter drive than I-95, to Fredericksburg. On our way back, we stop for lunch at Lowery’s Seafood Restaurant in Tappahannock, where I have crab cakes and Mike enjoys fried oysters.  Lowery’s is the restaurant where my mom and dad used to always stop for lunch when they came together to visit me in northern Virginia.  My dad doesn’t get up to visit us much these days as it wears him out too much to travel.

That was the end of our December, and a quiet end to 2015.  As a matter of fact, I was asleep by 10:00 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, snoring right through the New Year! 🙂

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escaping home: the downtown holiday market & the national portrait gallery

Sunday, December 13:  Today, we go downtown to check out the Downtown Holiday Market in Washington, to try to get into the Christmas spirit and to escape from our house.

the market
the market

Our youngest son (23) is crashing in our basement after his latest disaster.  At the beginning of the month, his housemates in Maryland asked him to move out of their house because of a disagreement. I imagine he is mostly to blame.  After a couple of his business ideas crashed and burned, he sank into a depression where he was basically sleeping every minute of the day.  It has been a very tough time for us, seeing him suffer and knowing that he is self-sabotaging his own life and squandering the gifts of his intelligence and all the things we’ve given him.  He really needs psychological help but refuses to get it.  We’re coming to the end of our rope with him.  Today, we just need to get out of the house and have an enjoyable outing on our own.

At the holiday market, we look in on all the booths and stop to listen to some Christmas music.

more plaques
more plaques

After exploring the market, we walk over to the National Portrait Gallery, entering through the lovely atrium.

Inside the atrium at the National Portrait Gallery
Inside the atrium at the National Portrait Gallery
Eye Pop
Eye Pop

We come first to “Eye Pop:  The Celebrity Gaze,” featuring Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Peter Dinklage, Eminem, Michelle Obama, Sonia Sotomayor, Eva Longoria, Serena Williams, and Kobe Bryant, to name a few. This exhibition features 53 portraits of luminaries who have been at the top of their fields.

Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt

In the ongoing collection “American Origins,” a “conversation about America” is on view in a series of 17 galleries and alcoves chronologically arranged to take the visitor from the days of contact between Native Americans and European explorers through the struggles of independence to the Gilded Age.

We are enjoying our lazy afternoon, so I don’t do my usual identification of paintings. I present them here simply for your enjoyment, without any identifying tags.

We then walk back out through the atrium where the poinsettia and the twinkling white lights evoke the holiday spirit.

me in the atrium
me in the atrium
glittering trees in the atrium
glittering trees in the atrium
atrium of the National Portrait Gallery
atrium of the National Portrait Gallery
the atrium
the atrium

Though we are trying hard to enjoy the outing, it’s tough because we’re constantly worried about our son and trying to figure out what to do with him.  We know we have to take the tough love approach, but we’re not really sure how to go about it at this point.  He’s become a huge black cloud hanging over us.  We love him and want him to succeed and be happy, but we know that unless he gets professional help, it’s doubtful that will happen.

On the steps of the Portrait Gallery looking toward Verizon Center
On the steps of the Portrait Gallery looking toward Verizon Center
Streets of Washington, D.C.
Streets of Washington, D.C.
Chinatown
Chinatown
The Chinatown gate
The Chinatown gate
bustling streets of downtown
bustling streets of downtown
a drive-by of the Washington Monument
a drive-by of the Washington Monument

The outing is a short escape from what we’re dealing with at home, and it does feel like a slight relief.  Sometimes life is a struggle.  I guess I can’t complain too much; after all, we are lucky in so many ways.  I just hope we can figure out what to do with him before he’s irrevocably lost to us. 😦

cocktail hour between the holidays: the early december edition

Sunday, December 6:  So much for good intentions!  I planned to start posting my cocktail hour more regularly after I wrote the last one on December 1, but here I am only getting to it a month later.  Welcome to our between-the-holidays cocktail hour.  Forget the patio; we are now moving indoors where it’s nice and warm.  Mike tells me he’d rather not entertain until we’ve finished our house renovation, but as we are just getting ready to sign a contract with a contractor this week, that wouldn’t be till the spring.  I can’t wait that long to have a gathering with my blogging friends!

Please, come in and make yourself comfortable.  I’ve made some hot apple cider, and I also can make you can egg nog drink, alcoholic or not, as you wish.  Lots of great wines too and some craft beers.

I’ve been trying to keep up with you on your blogs, but in case I missed anything, I’d love to hear how you’re preparing for the holiday festivities.  Have you put up your Christmas tree yet?  Decorated your house for the holidays?  For my American friends: did you have a nice Thanksgiving? Have you been outside exploring nature?  Have you seen any holiday light shows or been to any holiday markets?  Have you had your first snow of the season?  Have you seen any good movies or read any good books?  Have you been to any plays or concerts?  Have you completed any house projects?

We just picked up our Christmas tree this afternoon, and it’s now sitting in a bucket of water until we can decorate it sometime this week.  Mike put the wreaths on the windows and a spotlight near the front door which illuminates the wreaths. Other than that, I haven’t done anything holiday-related other than to buy myself some Christmas presents, notably a new Canon EOS Rebel SL1 and a telephoto lens.  I won’t be opening it until Christmas, but it’s already been delivered. 🙂

Mike and I went on a beautiful hike on Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River on Sunday, November 8, which I wrote about here: a november rock scramble on billy goat trail.  The following weekend, we went to Shepherdstown, West Virginia and Sharpsburg, Maryland, where we stayed in a B&B, walked all around Antietam Battlefield, and had a wonderful time celebrating our anniversary.  More about that later. 🙂

I had a fabulous Thanksgiving on November 26 at my sister Joan’s house in Salisbury, Maryland. My sister Stephanie from California and my brother Rob from New Jersey couldn’t make it, but my dad and stepmother were there, as well as my sister Joan, her husband Steve and my nephew Seth.  Sadly my niece Kelsey, who is now married to Dave, had to go to Dave’s house for the holiday, so she wasn’t there.  However, in a rare alignment of the stars, all three of my children were in attendance.  It was a wonderful day.

The table's all set
The table’s all set

We drove 2 1/2 hours to Salisbury and when we arrived, my sister was busy cooking.  The table was already set.  We visited and hung out while the turkey cooked, drinking wine and eating cheese & crackers and smoked oysters.

Joan and Steve, perfect hosts as always, made sure everyone was happy and had what they needed.

Joan and Steve
Joan and Steve

Some of the kids and Mike threw a football around in the front yard.  Mike somehow ruptured the tendon on one of his fingers, causing it to dangle at the joint. Later he found out from the doctor it’s called mallet finger. As an ex-football player, he was quite embarrassed about it!

frisbee game: Top: Sarah, Alex, Adam, Seth. Bottom: Mike
football game: Top: Sarah, Alex, Adam, Seth. Bottom: Mike

Mike took a picture of my sister and me out by the pool.

Joan and me
Joan and me

When dinner was finally served, we all loaded up our plates and joined each other around the table for a wonderful meal.

Everyone except me
Everyone except me
Everyone except Steve
Everyone except Steve

After dinner and dessert, we drove back home to northern Virginia.  The next morning Sarah wanted to invite her Aunt Barbara, Mike’s sister, over for brunch.  We had a somewhat healthy version of huevos rancheros and bacon and waffles.

healthy huevos rancheros
healthy huevos rancheros

I finished reading Isabelle Allende’s The Infinite Plan on November 24, which I really enjoyed.  Then I dove right in to The Outside of August, by Joanna Hershon.  I find this story intriguing because it’s told from the point of view of a daughter whose mother, Charlotte, is always escaping to foreign lands.  They can’t really figure out what she does when she goes away, nor why she feels compelled to always leave. The family feels the mother’s absence intensely when she’s absent, and they seem to always be waiting for her return. Of course, I can identify with this story as I can see a lot of myself in that mother.  It’s interesting that it’s told from the children’s point of view, and focuses on how her absence really affects the children.  Of course, in my all-too-real life, I can see the effect my absence has had on my children, although they insist that they are proud of me for following my dreams and for my bravery and adventurous nature.  They say one thing, but their actions often speak differently.  I’m nearly finished the book and am anxious to discover why the mother always felt the urge to escape to exotic lands. Maybe it will tell me something about myself that I don’t know.

I went to see the movie Steve Jobs.  It was an excellent movie and it just so happened Adam was home on the afternoon I was going to see it and asked to come along because of his fascination with Jobs.  Adam is brilliant, and like Steve Jobs, he doesn’t see the need to go to college.  He wants to change the world like Jobs did, but in a way that involves permaculture, organic farming, etc.  At this moment, I can see Adam struggling to find a direction and I wish with all my heart that he’d reconsider going to college.  One thing I’m figuring out is that I cannot force my children to do what they don’t want to do.  It’s a losing battle, and I’m learning to give it up.  I have to step back and give them the reins and see what they can figure out on their own.  But I must admit it’s frustrating to see such a struggle going on with him when he could have it so easy.

Mike and I went to see Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks and, another night, we went to see singer Madeleine Peyroux at The Barns at Wold Trap.  I really loved the movie, Spotlight, in which journalists in Boston took on the Catholic Church over the abuse of young children by priests. I was less impressed with Brooklyn, about an Irish immigrant girl.  It seemed tedious and predictable.

I had a goal to send off my novel to 10 agents by the end of November, but I only sent it out to five.  I don’t know why I’m so resistant to putting it out there.  Of course I’m afraid of rejection, but shouldn’t I be more afraid of it sitting on my computer, unseen by anyone, as it has for the last twelve years?  I hope to send it out to at least five more agents by year-end.

I’ve been doing way too much shopping, such a foolish thing to waste my time on.  But I find myself in the house all day and feeling trapped.  I just have to get out and see other human beings.  I’m considering signing up for a real estate course just for something to do where I can get out with other adults. I’ve always enjoyed looking at houses and my banking background will come in handy.  I don’t really want to teach ESL in America as the pay is horrible for the amount of work required.  And now, I don’t want to go abroad because I need to stay home for various reasons, mainly my children, Mike and the upcoming home renovation.

In 2000, I did The Artist’s Way 12-week course.  Doing that inspired me to write short stories and eventually my novel.  Now I’ve decided to undertake The Artist’s Way at Work: Riding the Dragon.  I just started it on December 2 and it will take 12 weeks.  Who knows what this might open up for me.

I find myself quite depressed about all the violence that is happening in the world, especially related to ISIS: the Paris shootings, the Beirut attacks, the downing of the Russian plane, the recent killing of a governor in a state in Yemen.  The killings in San Bernardino this week by a husband and wife who pledged their support to the caliphate.  Will the violence ever end?  I have that same uneasy feeling I had after September 11, the time period during which my novel takes place.  I wrote the novel at a time when I felt shaken by world events, and those events keep repeating themselves in different forms today.  I don’t begin to know the solution to dealing with the ISIS caliphate and their violence-with-a-vengeance campaign.  I don’t even know if people such as these, people who are so hell-bent on forcing their world view on all of us, can be bargained with in a non-violent way.  Would they be wiling to bend, even a little?

Here in America, we have our own brand of terrorism as well, with disenfranchised and alienated people taking their anger to the extreme by grabbing an easy-to-access weapon and randomly shooting innocent people.  I can see the alienation that is taking over our country and we should work on correcting that deep issue rather than thinking more gun laws will solve what I see as symptoms to the problem.  I am for some gun control, especially for assault-type weapons, but I also would like to know that when I feel threatened in any way, I can go out and get a gun myself to defend my family.

No matter what, I refuse to be afraid.  I will not let these people have power over me, and I hope most Americans will refuse to stand down. I am not going to let someone else dictate to me what my life will be.

Back to more pleasant things.  We haven’t yet had any snow in northern Virginia, but we have had many rainy and dreary days.  I love to go outside to walk every day, if possible, and the weather has put a damper on that.  The weight I lost over the last couple of months is slowly creeping back, so I need to pull back on my eating.  But on these cold and dreary days, comfort foods are calling my name.  We’ve been making a lot of soups, the perfect remedy to cold winter days.

Here’s one view along my favorite 3-mile walk around Lake Audubon.  We’ve had a lot of gray skies like these lately.

Reflections on a gray day around Lake Audubon in Reston
Reflections on a gray day around Lake Audubon in Reston
Lake Audubon
Lake Audubon

SCAN0001We went this past Friday night to Mike’s company’s holiday Christmas party.  I haven’t gotten dressed up like that in years, and I have to say, I really don’t like getting dressed up! I’m always so uncomfortable wearing pantyhose and walking in heels.  I don’t know why on earth someone can’t invent some comfortable pantyhose!

It was a fun gathering with lots of fantastic food, especially crab cakes and a pasta bar and a great salad bar.  It was nice to meet many of Mike’s coworkers. The best thing about the party was this crazy photo booth thing where you got inside and did silly poses and the photo booth printed out a column of pictures.  It was so goofy and loads of fun!

Finally, on Saturday, we went to Richmond where Mike went to the University of Richmond vs. William & Mary football game and I met Sarah and Alex for lunch at Fresca…on Addison.  Later that evening, we picked up Alex and his girlfriend Ariana, and we all went to the Dominion GardenFest of Lights at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and then had a Cuban dinner at Kuba-Kuba.  I’ll post something about that later.  It was great fun and got us all in the mood for the holidays. 🙂

I know I’ve talked a lot about what’s been going on with me, but I hope you’ll tell me what’s happening with you in the comments.  I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to. Hugs to you all and thank you for coming.  Have a holly jolly Christmas and a happy New Year!

 

an evening at lewis ginter’s dominion gardenfest of lights: “H2Whoa”

Saturday, December 5:  After I fetch Mike from the University of Richmond football game, we sit in Starbucks drinking hot coffee for about an hour before we’re due to pick up Alex and his girlfriend, Ariana.

From Alex’s house in The Fan, we head over to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for the Dominion GardenFest of Lights.  It’s quite a cold night, so we bundle up to walk through the 30-acre light and botanical display.  The “H2Whoa” theme showcases water in all its forms and highlights the many ways water shapes our world.

I apologize in advance for the poor quality of my photos, for without a tripod, I fear they’re pretty blurry!

blue fountain at Lewis Ginter
blue fountain at Lewis Ginter
Alex, me and Mike
Alex, me and Mike

Many of the flowers and fish throughout the gardens are made from recycled materials, especially plastic bottles — cut, painted and shaped into fantastical creatures and botanical features.

garden of recycled plastic
garden of recycled plastic
Pirate's booty, Purple Octopuses and Schools of Fish
Pirate’s booty, Purple Octopuses and Schools of Fish
Pirate's booty, Purple Octopuses and Schools of Fish
Pirate’s booty, Purple Octopuses and Schools of Fish
Winter Wonderland
Winter Wonderland
canopy of lights
canopy of lights

In the children’s area, we find a zoo of colorful animals.

Alex and Ariana are a cute couple, don’t you think?

Ariana and Alex
Ariana and Alex

We make our way slowly over toward the Conservatory.  The warmth inside beckons.

Conservatory
Conservatory
Fountain Garden
Fountain Garden
Fountain Garden
Fountain Garden

Inside the Conservatory, we’re greeted by a giant octopus and schools of fish on the “ocean’s floor.”

An underwater world in the Conservatory
An underwater world in the Conservatory
Gardens in the conservatory
Gardens in the conservatory

We find many garden features in the Conservatory, some real and some created out of plastic bottles.

In the Conservatory, we also admire the elaborate electric train dioramas.

Finally, we head back into the Visitor’s Center, where we wander around the gift shop to warm up.

heading back to the Visitor's Center
heading back to the Visitor’s Center
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octopus ornament
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sea creature ornaments
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cute owl ornament
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terrier ornament
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elk ornament
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butterflies
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lanterns in the gift shop

After our fun exploration of the GardenFest of Lights, we go to The Fan, where we wait in line for a Cuban dinner at Kuba-Kuba Restaurante y Bodega.   We enjoy a lively atmosphere, delicious meals and cold beers, after which we take Alex and Ariana back home and we drive home two hours to northern Virginia. 🙂

an afternoon at the virginia museum of fine arts

Saturday, December 5:  Today, Mike and I drive down to Richmond for several “events.”  Mike is going to meet some friends for the University of Richmond vs. William & Mary football game.  I don’t enjoy football even though it’s my alma mater playing (W&M); I’d rather have lunch with my adult children, which I’ll refer to as my “kids.”

The kids are busy for much of the day as final exams are next week at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU); Alex has to attend a biology study group and Sarah has a big paper due and has to work on it all afternoon before going to work at 5:00.  So I meet Alex and Sarah for lunch at Fresca…on Addison.  We chat mostly about Sarah’s paper.  She’s writing a literary analysis of Katherine Porter’s short story “The Theft,” which she had me read over Thanksgiving.  We’ve already discussed it at great length and now we discuss it some more.  I miss analyzing literature, which is all I did during my four years as an English major at William & Mary.

The kids take off to meet their obligations, and I have some time to kill before I pick up Mike from the football game.  Later, we’ll pick up Alex and his girlfriend Ariana to go to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for the Dominion Gardenfest of Lights 2015-2016.  We plan to take them out for dinner after we walk through the light show.

In the meantime, I have several hours to kill, so I visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which I haven’t done in a long time.  I have forgotten how huge it is.  I mistakenly thought I could see the whole thing in several hours.  That simply isn’t possible unless you rush through.

I decide I’ll make my way through from top to bottom, so I begin with the South Asian collection on Level 3. This gallery has art from India, Nepal and Tibet.  It takes me back to my travels through India in 2011 and Nepal in 2013.  I still haven’t been to Tibet, though I’d love to go!

In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery

One room is completely occupied by “Garden Pavilion” from 19th century Rajasthan.  Elegant arcaded pavilions were standard features in royal gardens and palace complexes in India between the 17th and 19th centuries.  Large examples could accommodate a ruler and his court assembled for business or entertainment.  More intimately scaled pavilions such as this one were used for private retreat, pleasure, and contemplation (from a plaque at the museum).

Garden Pavilion
Garden Pavilion

I saw many pavilions such as these when I traveled around northern India and Rajasthan.

Garden Pavilion
Garden Pavilion

I’m fascinated by the Mughal paintings.  According to a plaque at the museum, “no event was more crucial to the history of Indian painting than the Mughal conquest of north India in 1526. This dynasty from Central Asia would endure in India until its last leader was deposed by the British in 1857.   From about 1550-1700, the so-called Great Mughal emperors were the undisputed masters of much of the Indian subcontinent. Great sponsors of the arts, they developed in their royal ateliers a sophisticated visual language that was both beautiful and awe-inspiring.”

In the South Asian Gallery
In the South Asian Gallery
Indian Mughal Paintings
Indian Mughal Paintings
Indian Mughal Paintings
Indian Mughal Paintings
Indian Mughal Paintings
Indian Mughal Paintings

Next, I explore the Art Deco collection.

Art Deco Collection
Art Deco Collection
Art Deco Collection
Art Deco Collection
Art Deco Collection
Art Deco Collection
Marble Hall
Marble Hall

I wander into the European collection featuring French art and French Impressionism.  Below, Eugene Boudin characteristically explores the theme of modernization as known in the late 19th century. His rapid brushstrokes capture the windblown clouds and white-capped waves as a fishing fleet is under sail on a windy day off the coast of France (from a plaque at the museum).

Eugene Boudin - A French Fishing Fleet with Packet Boat (1889)
Eugene Boudin – A French Fishing Fleet with Packet Boat (1889)

The barely tamed Arabian stallion portrayed here by Carle Vernet captures the Romantic interest in both the “exotic” and the supremacy of nature over humankind.

Carle Vernet - A Groom Holding an Arab Stallion (ca. 1830)
Carle Vernet – A Groom Holding an Arab Stallion (ca. 1830)

This is one of four paintings of poppy fields that Claude Monet painted during the summer of 1885 in Giverny, where the artist resided from 1883 until his death almost 45 years later.

Claude Monet - Field of Poppies, Giverny (1885)
Claude Monet – Field of Poppies, Giverny (1885)

This view from Vincent Van Gogh’s hospital window is one of many versions he painted while recovering from a serious emotional crisis.  The artist suffered from attacks of mania — perhaps stemming from a form of epilepsy — throughout his life, but they became more pronounced after his unsuccessful collaboration with Paul Gauguin in Arles.

Vincent Van Gogh - The Wheatfield Behind St. Paul's Hospital, St. Remy (1889)
Vincent Van Gogh – The Wheatfield Behind St. Paul’s Hospital, St. Remy (1889)

Kees Van Dongen, a Dutch painter active in France, shows his whimsical sense of humor in the comical contrast between the woman’s flamboyantly oversized hat and the miniscule dog.

Kees Van Dongen - Parisian Lady 1910
Kees Van Dongen – Parisian Lady 1910

During World War II, Raoul Dufy took refuge in his atelier in Perpignan in southern France. The quiet optimism in the power of art — here, a bouquet painted from life takes form on the artist’s easel — is greatly at odds with the tumultuous reality of global conflict.

Raoul Dufy - L'Atelier au Bouquet (1942)
Raoul Dufy – L’Atelier au Bouquet (1942)

By 1953, Pablo Picasso had long since departed from the hard abstraction of Analytic Cubism, however, this painting — though decorative in tone — retains the broken forms and skewed perspective that are characteristic of the artist.

Pablo Picasso - The Chinese Chest of Drawers (1953)
Pablo Picasso – The Chinese Chest of Drawers (1953)

Here, Pierre Bonnard greatly monumentalized a commonplace piece of household furniture. Presented almost as a secular altar, this table seems to embody the very idea of family, household and bourgeois abundance.

Pierre Bonnard - The Dining Room (ca. 1940-47)
Pierre Bonnard – The Dining Room (ca. 1940-47)

In one gallery, I find the ballerina by Edgar Degas, similar to the one I saw earlier this year at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Edgar Degas
Edgar Degas

Next, I wander into the Art Nouveau gallery, where I admire the Tiffany lamps.

Finally, I go downstairs to Level 2 and walk through the McGlothlin Galleries which feature the American collection.  This huge oil on canvas by Edwin Lord Weeks is the first painting to greet me.  He was the first known American artist to visit India. This painting dates from Weeks’ second India excursion. Depicting the Moti Masjid built by Shah Jahan — the Mughal emperor associated with the famed Taj Mahal — this painting won a gold medal in the 1889 Paris Salon, where the artist’s works created a public sensation.

Edwin Lord Weeks - The Hour of Prayer at the Pearl Mosque, Agra, ca. 1888-89
Edwin Lord Weeks – The Hour of Prayer at the Pearl Mosque, Agra, ca. 1888-89

George Inness was a leading figure of the Hudson River School and is best known for his serene renderings of landscapes that resonate with the ideal of America as the New Eden. Evening captures two men, one piling wood and one driving his livestock home, after a long day’s work.

George Inness - Evening, 1863
George Inness – Evening, 1863

This painting features the greatest steam yacht of its era, the Namouna, built in 1881, breaking through the waves, the oblique angle of the bow tilting the viewer toward the rush of surging white foam.

Julius LeBlanc Stewart - Yachting the Mediterranean, 1896
Julius LeBlanc Stewart – Yachting the Mediterranean, 1896

This painting channels Edith Wharton’s famed interior design guide, Decoration of Houses (1897), a bible for genteel taste during the Gilded Age.

William Merritt Chase - Friendly Advice, 1913
William Merritt Chase – Friendly Advice, 1913

Of all the places Sargent encountered in his travels, perhaps none captured his attention like Venice.  Beneath the Grand Canal’s Rialto Bridge, ornament is secondary to action.  Here the flow of traffic enlivens the painting with a sense of movement.

John Singer Sargent - The Rialto, 1909
John Singer Sargent – The Rialto, 1909

Theodore Robinson was instructed in a centuries-old manner that emphasized the laborious sketching of live models in a variety of traditional poses. In the Sun features one such model lying in a field of grass, blanched by the summer sun.  Marie, as she was known, was Robinson’s romantic companion and prospective wife.  Sadly, the artist died unmarried just four years later at the young age of forty-three.

Theodore Robinson - In the Sun, 1891
Theodore Robinson – In the Sun, 1891

May Day festivals in New York City featured schoolgirls dressed in white parading through Central Park. This painting identifies the parade with all socio-economic levels, and includes the diverse group on the same canvas.

George Bellows - May Day in Central Park, 1905
George Bellows – May Day in Central Park, 1905

After leaving the American collection on the 2nd floor, I head straight through the East Asian, Ancient and European collections to the African collection.  By now I am getting tired and my feet are sore from walking and standing on the unforgiving stone floor. I do a quick walk-through of the African gallery and the Mid- to Late 20th Century Gallery.

Marsden Hartley’s Franconia Notch is a quintessential expression of the leading modernist’s self-proclaimed “Americanness” at a time of growing cultural nationalism.

Marsden Hartley - Franconia Notch (Mt. Lafayette, Franconia Notch, N.H.), 1930
Marsden Hartley – Franconia Notch (Mt. Lafayette, Franconia Notch, N.H.), 1930

Ecuadoran Oswaldo Guayasamin, a leading Pan-American painter, focuses here on Latin America’s indigenous heritage and various ethnic groups, especially the poor and dispossessed.

Oswaldo Guayasamin - Cartuchos (Lilies), 1949
Oswaldo Guayasamin – Cartuchos (Lilies), 1949

Edward Hopper’s House at Dusk is set at the “exquisite hour” of dusk, that most transitional time of day.  The painter introduces a suspenseful narrative element with the figure of a woman silhouetted by artificial light, seemingly unaware of the subtle afterglow taking place behind her apartment house.

Edward Hopper - House at Dusk, 1935
Edward Hopper – House at Dusk, 1935

After this, I’m exhausted from all my walking and there is still much to see in the museum.  I will have to return several more times to take it all in.  But for today, I leave and head out to Richmond’s west end to pick up Mike at the University of Richmond.  After a quick stop at Starbucks, we head into the Fan to pick up Alex and Ariana to head to the Gardenfest of Lights.

All brief descriptions of the art are taken from plaques at the museum. 🙂