Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Peaceful Week in Connecticut

A lot of blue and white clothes were packed for the trip. (click on the photos for larger, clearer versions)
TD and I miss going out to Connecticut where we visited my parents so at the end of the summer we rented a beach house for a week on the Connecticut Shoreline to have a chance to be back in the area. I found a nice beach cottage on the internet at Vrbo.com, where I have in the past found vacation houses on Martha's Vineyard and the Jersey Shore. This one in Connecticut was located on the border of Clinton and Westbrook, not far from Guilford, where my parents lived. The location of the house was nice - across the street was the Long Island Sound for swimming 

and behind the house were peaceful salt marshes where the sun set in the evening and the only sound was the birds singing.

We took the train from Grand Central, as we often did, to the New Haven train station. There we rented a car and stopped in Guilford to visit the farmer that my father regularly frequented. We stocked up on vegetables and fruit and country flowers.

In that beach house we had the most relaxing week. After the cacophony of New York, the quiet was most welcome. The birds sang a lot in the morning at sunrise and again at sunset. It was a nice neighborhood to go running in. On a run I passed sidewalks that led down to the water

and other beautiful vistas out to the Long Island Sound.

TD and I always enjoy being near the water. We went to the beach at Hammonasset Park which was nearby. And we visited Guilford. We bought books at Breakwater Books, Guilford's wonderful independent bookstore, and headed to the town beach where we had spent many afternoons over the years -

At the end of the day we went to Chaffinch Island which is pretty place that my mother favored. She liked to bring drinks there for cocktail hour, and we have a good family black and white portrait which a photographer took of us there. After my mother passed away, I dropped her ashes in the water at Chaffinch Island -

One night we drove to nearby Essex, Connecticut, where we had dinner at the Griswold Inn, founded in 1776. The Tap Room there, its walls covered in paintings, is one of the great bar rooms.

After dinner, we walked around Essex which is such a pretty town and was famously attacked by the English in 1814 during the War of 1812. This is one of my favorite houses on Main Street. It reminded us of Cooperstown -

As dusk fell we walked down toward the water and all was still -

We had been before to the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme and we wanted to go back. This museum was originally a boarding house owned by Florence Griswold where American artists, known as the Lyme Art Colony, lived and painted. The original neoclassical mansion is charmingly preserved. Here is Miss Griswold pictured at home painted by William Chadwick circa 1905-1908.

Miss Griswold inherited the house from her father, Captain Robert Harper Griswold, who is here painted by Thomas Coke Ruckle in 1840. In her letters, his wife mentions gazing at his portrait during the Captain's long voyages out at sea.

Towards the rear of the property is a modern gallery where current exhibitions are displayed. TD and I enjoyed it all –

There was also a trip to the Clinton Crossings Premium Outlet mall where we stocked up on clothes!  We had such a nice relaxing week in Connecticut and it was great fun to visit our favorite places and see them again. On our last night there, the sun set dramatically over the salt marshes in the back - 

while in the front over the Sound the most extraordinary rainbow appeared. The last time I saw a rainbow was on the day my mother passed away when we were at the New Haven train station headed back to New York City.
This huge rainbow stretched from one side of the Sound

to the other. Too giant to get in one photograph!

I thought it was my mother saying a big Hello.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

John Singer Sargent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Self-Portrait of John Singer Sargent from 1886.
TD and I ventured up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently to see an exhibition of John Singer Sargent paintings called Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends. I am huge fan of Sargent's and try to take in his work whenever I can. A few years ago TD and I took a trip to Cooperstown where we saw an exhibition of his works at the Fenimore Art Museum on the banks of Otsega Lake, and we made a video about it. Sargent had such a great eye for personalities and clothes and interiors; he made everything look elegant. This show at the Met is a collection of portraits of the artist's friends so they are not as formal and studied as the famous portraits which Sargent did for paying clients. These paintings are more intimate, spontaneous and experimental. Sargent's work is always refined and sophisticated, but these paintings are also relaxed and easy-going, which is a combination that I love.
This famous photo shows Sargent working in his studio. The paintings below in the wonderful show at the Met took Sargent out of the studio, to be with his friends.

There are about 90 works in the Met exhibit. These are a few of my favorites -
This is Claude Monet. I always picture Monet with a big white beard at his home in Giverny. I didn't know he looked like this in his younger days - kind like a bearded Williamsburg hipster.

Below is a charcoal sketch of the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Yeats, the greatest English-speaking poet of his generation, lived in County Sligo in Ireland, which is where my great grandfather Dan O'Donnell was from. Yeats wrote a beautiful poem about a lake near Sligo called The Lake Isle of Innisfree. I love this drawing - was there ever a more handsome poet? The description notes that "Yeats cultivated his appearance as a poet and an aesthete, wearing a velvet coat and bow tie as a reminder of his elevated status as an artist."

Here is Claude Monet again, this time painting by the edge of a wood. I like his blue coat and his light grey pants. 

Here is a similar subject matter - this time it is artist Paul Helleu sketching with his wife. The painter concentrates on his work as his wife gazes off. His mouse brown coat contrasts with his light grey pants.

Here is another artist named Ambrogio Raffele, who is pictured in his hotel room as he considers his landscape painting which straddles the washstand and the bed. A hat and bed clothes are strewn over the bed linens as the artist surveys his work. What a charming way to live. 

The painting below, called A Dinner Table at Night, pictures the dining room at the home of Edith Vickers who is shown drinking a glass of port at the end of a meal. The silky ruby red lampshades cast a romantic glow over the scene. 

Lastly is one of my very favorite Sargents called An Interior in Venice from 1898. It shows the grand salon of the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice where Daniel Sargent Curtis (right) and his wife Ariana (center) lived. Standing at the rear are their son and his wife, both elegantly rendered in long lines. All are dressed in black and grey and white, and the vast space of the salon recedes back into the shadows as golden chandeliers and gilt frames hang overhead. Sargent painted this as a gift but Ariana refused the gift, feeling she looked too old and that the lounging pose of her son was indecorous.

In the gift shop I bought a book of the paintings, here pictured at home with little Bell on top of a Double RL Ralph Lauren scarf.

I enjoy looking at the paintings at home now and learning more about them. A trip to a Sargent exhibition to me is a trip back in time to a more cultured and aesthetic era. It's always inspiring and I find it comforting and reassuring. This show is up at the Met until October 4 - go if you can.