I’d been awaiting this day for a while. My friend Rachel was going to meet us at the museum and Dom took the day off so he could come too. We were going to see Botticelli and Matisse! Bella was thrilled, Sophie was intrigued, and the younger kids were resigned.
And then we almost didn’t make it to our museum outing. As we were driving suddenly we heard a loud thumping from under the car. Dom and I looked at each other as he pulled over. It sounded like a flat tire. At first the tires all looked fine and then I spotted a huge bolt sticking into the front passenger tire.
We were only a couple blocks from a tire place, fortunately hadn’t got on the highway yet, so we swung into the parking lot there, sure our fun day was over. As I got out of the car I could hear the loud hissing. And the guy behind the counter said it would probably be two to three hours. I messaged my friend Rachel who was supposed to meet us to let her know the situation.
But miraculously they had out weird size tire in stock. The kids spent half an hour playing with the fun waiting room toys and then we were back on the road. We were only an hour later that we’d intended at the museum.
Our mission for the day was twofold: to see the Botticelli exhibit with my friend Rachel and then, after lunch, to visit the Matisse. A full day, but both special exhibits were too good to pass up.
Botticelli and the Search for the Divine
The Botticellis were as lovely as expected. There were also some pieces by Lippi and another contemporary of Boticelli’s. The theme was Search for the Divine and the show highlighted both religious and secular pieces in two phases: Botticelli’s earlier pagan-inspired pieces Greek and Roman gods like Venus, Minerva, Cupid and Psyche, and the Judgement of Paris, and his later more devotional works: Christian saints, angels, and the Incarnate God. There was also a volume of the Divine Comedy that he’d illustrated.
I wasn’t able to read much of the accompanying text to get a sense of the thinking of the curators, but I appreciated the art as best I could. Looking at art with kids is, of course, different from looking at it alone. But as I attempt to guide them to find some connection with the art, I often find myself taking a new look, seeing something I wouldn’t otherwise have seen, making connections and paying attention to details. I would have loved to sit and sketch as Bella did, but today was not a day when that worked out for me.
Still, Venus was as lovely as expected and I discovered many new pieces I hadn’t seen before. I had fun with Anthony and Sophie identifying characters from Greek and Roman myths. We’d just read about Cupid and Psyche, so Botticelli’s painting was intriguing. As was the Judgement of Paris.
But my favorite might have been two images of the Madonna and child with St John the Baptist. In one an infant Jesus leans out of Mary’s arms to embrace his older cousin. Both boys press their faces together and grab each others’ heads in a most tender way. It is a sweetly human moment. In the other a wide-eyed, blue-eyed Jesus perches on Mary’s lap while John smirks in the background. Mary bows her head in adoration, but the baby gazes up into her face with his own adoring look. The details of the vase and textiles were gorgeous, but it is Jesus’s sweet face that will haunt me.
I wish I’d had more time for St Augustine, for Minerva and the Centaur, and for several other pictures which I was only able to glance at. Never enough time. I did pause for a while at the death mask of Lorenzo the Magnificent. What a truly fascinating face. Even in death it has such amazing character and presence: a strong jaw, heavy brows, a prominent nose, and a mouth that seems quite firm and decided.
All too soon it was time to head to the cafeteria for lunch. We had a jolly repast, enjoying fellowship with Rachel and her 2 year old son, Henry. After lunch the kids ran around in the courtyard for a while and then Rachel and Henry headed home and we headed towards the Matisse.
Matisse in the Studio
By that time Anthony and Lucy were pretty done, but we still managed to enjoy most of the exhibit. Bella tagged along with a tour group and heard most of the docent’s talks. Sophie and I spent a lot of time looking at paintings and objects. The theme was In the Studio and paintings were paired with objects and furniture from Matisse’s studio as well as some photos of the artist in his studio. We had fun seeing where a statue or vase or pot appeared in multiple pieces and even more so in getting to see the actual vase or statue or pot. Sophie really liked the hunt the item aspect of the show and continues her streak of liking modern artists. She was also a big fan of Picasso. She’s very perceptive and it’s fun to talk art with her. Ben and Anthony managed to find a few pieces to connect with but are still in the “museums are kind of boring” camp. Still, they’re good sports and don’t complain too much. As with the Botticelli, there was a lot going on in this exhibit that I wasn’t able to slow down and savor as much as I’d have liked, but I did very much enjoy it despite feeling a bit rushed.
After a brief stop in the gift shop to buy some Matisse postcards for the kids’ collections, we went to revisit the Make Way for Ducklings exhibit of Robert McCloskey’s art, which we had seen but Dom had not. Dom really enjoyed it and the kids mostly looked at picture books, but did also take a look at some of the drawings and paintings.
That was about the limit of everyone’s attention and so after that we headed home.
On the whole I like Botticelli better, I think; but Matisse is the artist who makes me want to create. I want to get out scissors and colored paper to make my own cutouts. I left the museum burning to make arrangements of vases and textiles and fruit to draw with bright colors.