Friday, 29 June 2012


28/6/12, New York

Where do you start?  The Met's collection is simply overwhelming.  We stopped by the Egyptian Temple of Dendur, rescued from the rising floods of the Aswan High Dam, which I recall from my previous visit, en route to the American Wing.

There we saw lots of reconstructed interiors of 18th and 19th century houses, some enjoyable American Impressionist paintings (including a series of women and women-with-children by a talented woman called Mary Cassatt), and some earlier landscapes, plus the vast and famous picture of Washington Crossing the Delaware among the ice-floes, which fills an entire wall.

There were a couple of galleries filled with John Singer Sargent (who it turns out painted rather fine genre paintings as well as the well-known portraits), including his scandalous picture of Madame X, whose drily-phrased label I enjoyed:

Madame Pierre Gautreau (the Louisiana-born Virginie Amélie Avegno; 1859–1915) was known in Paris for her artful appearance. Sargent hoped to enhance his reputation by painting and exhibiting her portrait. Working without a commission but with his sitter’s complicity, he emphasized her daring personal style, showing the right strap of her gown slipping from her shoulder. At the Salon of 1884, the portrait received more ridicule than praise. Sargent repainted the shoulder strap and kept the work for over thirty years. When, eventually, he sold it to the Metropolitan, he commented, “I suppose it is the best thing I have done,” but asked that the Museum disguise the sitter’s name.

We moved on to the modern galleries -- Jasper Johns, Mark Rothko in profusion -- and then a simply stunning collection of French Impressionists.  Rooms-full of Degas, Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Renoir, Sisley, Seurat etc etc.  So much indeed that you couldn't take it in.  Which is why one prefers the Frick, in a way: more manageable.

We found some striking Georgia O'Keeffes, but when we went looking for photographs by her husband Alfred Steiglitz there were none to be seen, which was a pity.

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