I have been painting seven days a week trying to finish up a double portrait. It’s easy to get a little housebound and stuck in a routine, especially when you are self-employed and a client is waiting for a painting. I always feel like I should be working. In the back of my mind while working I kept hearing a friend of mine telling me about a good Mexican restaurant in Richmond called Nacho Mama’s. I have been wanting to visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for a long time, which just happens to be a short distance from Nacho Mama’s! When I heard on the weather channel that it was going to be in the sixties, I said to my wife Jen, why don’t I paint in the morning and let’s take a break in the afternoon and go to the VMFA, visit Chasen Galleries (one of my galleries where I show my work) and eat at Nacho Mama’s before heading home. We would have limited time to get it all in before Chasen’s closing time.
We grabbed a gallery map as we entered the VMFA, tried to determine where the French Impressionist exhibit was and headed up to the second level. The marble stairway was grand and the building gorgeous. I’ve always considered myself a good map reader and my wife is excellent finding her way around interiors like shopping malls. Neither one of us had a clue which way to go to find any of the exhibits we wanted to see. It must have been due to aesthetic reasons that the museum decided to have very few signs posted. Fortunately, everyone we asked was helpful and we started our whirlwind look at the impressive collection.
Some of the stand outs were a sizeable and beautiful Daniel Garber painting, a scene of Marly, France painted by Sisley, unbelievable equestrian paintings and hunting scenes, an early Monet that wasn’t quite as impressionistic as most of his later work, a coastal scene by Childe Hassam, a number of gems by Degas etc…
At one point when my face was a little too close to a Renoir (I wasn’t wearing my glasses) a female security guard poked her head around the corner and nicely informed me that I was to remain at least a foot away from the paintings. She mentioned that someone had sneezed on a portrait of George Washington and it was all the museum could do to save the painting! I found that odd and amusing at the same time. I also thought isn’t that what varnish is for?
We were there mostly to see the Impressionist works but on our brief visit we noticed some work that others might be interested in. We saw a glass torso statue that had baby doll heads inside. An unusual diet I thought. There was one Toulouse-Lautrec painting of a man sitting at a bar that was in a very loose, some might say sloppy style, yet there was a little white dot and a white dash that implied a cocktail glass on the bar. It was amazing to me that it was recognizable with so little detail. Genius I thought.
On the way out I spotted a huge Andy Warhol painting of three large Elvises. Each Elvis was identical to the other. Who is better than Elvis? Three Elvises!
On our next visit I would love to have more time to really study the large selection of quality art. As it was we barely made it to Chasen Galleries before closing time. If you ever get a chance to visit the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, you will enjoy it thoroughly. Just be sure to take your glasses, keep your distance from the paintings and hold in your sneezes!