The Marvelous Metropolitan

A snapshot of visitors on my trip to the Met in the general Impressionism gallery.

On a recent weekend I woke up early, grabbed a coffee, and headed straight for the Met.  There's an exhibit running that I'd been dying to see and although 82nd street can seem a bit far away at 9am on a Sunday, it was well worth the journey.

I need an occassional dose of the Metropolitan Museum to feel like a functioning human being.  I often think of visits to New York City's institutions of high culture (the MoMA, the Whitney, the Frick) as an alternative to church, which I very rarely attend.  In my earlier twenties when I was much more badly behaved, I'd drag myself to the Met as a way to atone after a particularly mischevious, particularly late night.  There's something so soul cleansing about spending an hour or two in the company of so much greatness.  I feel the same way in a really incredible library.  So much wisdom all in one room.

The exhibit that brought me to the museum on this particular morning was the Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity exhibit.  It was a wonderful collection of Impressionism's best and brightest: Monet, Manet, Renoir, Caillebotte, Seurat and many others.  During Impressionism artists shifted focus from official portraiture to painting 'real life' as they interpreted it.  And in real life there will always be fashion.  Some of the paintings depicted picnics with beautiful clothing as in Monet's Luncheon on the Grass.  Others were glimpses into gatherings of high society as in Mary Cassat's In the Loge, a snapshot of a society woman in her box at the opera, opera glasses and all.  The Met also displayed preserved outfits as part of the exhibit, even some of the exact dresses pictured in the paintings displayed in the exhibit.  My very favorite clothing to oogle over was actually the menswear.  There is a case of top hats and another of tails.  And suddenly I was imagining myself in a gentler era.

The room of hats and menswear per the Met official website

Please, go visit.  It's spectacular.  And before you leave, stop by and visit the other rooms of Impressionist Art (the purple rooms on the map).  In particular, there is a room of just Pierre Bonnard that I can't get enough of.  And the work of Toulouse-Laurec is always in dark room (his pieces are chalk and so the environment must be dark for preservaton) and wonderfully creepy - he kept his company in brothels and with women who he depicted as grotesquely fascinating.  My favorite things to visit in the Met are in small rooms where the pieces are superb but the breadth of work isn't too overwhelming.

 If you pay the Met a visit - let me know!  And if you head uptown to visit on a weekend afternoon, pack yourself a little picnic and eat on the steps or just behind the museum in the Park before you head in.  It's the ideal way to enjoy a beautiful Spring day.