Metropolitan Musings: What Inspires You?
I spent nearly the entire day yesterday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, catching up on all the exhibits I’ve been dying to see. The Met is one of the NYC places I tend to frequent whenever I need a creative pick-me-up, because I always see something that inspires me in one direction or another, whether it’s revisiting an old “friend” (a work of art I studied in high school or college, or just love to look at every time I head to the museum), or something new and equally compelling.
I began yesterday with the Picasso blockbuster exhibit, which is an everything-but-the-kitchen sink show that covers the entire gamut of the painter’s exceptionally lengthy career. Think you’ll have to stop creating when you’re 87? Think again. Picasso did a suite of intaglio prints between March and October 1968 titled the “347 Suite” for the number of drawings he just happened to dash off at the time – nowhere near his dotage. Of this suite, Picasso mused, "I spend hour after hour while I draw, observing my creatures and thinking about the mad things they're up to; basically, it's my way of writing fiction."
The exhibit showcases the Met’s collection of Picassos, a collection that began with a gift from writer Gertrude Stein of the artist’s 1905/06 portrait of her. That painting is one of my old friends: (my fellow art history students and I nicknamed it “Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein”) so I had to laugh when I read on the placard what Stein herself had to say about the portrait: “For me, it is I, and it is the only reproduction of me which is always I, for me.”
The Picasso exhibit ends up being a retrospective of the artist’s life, from the miniature caricatures that recall Daumier’s popular drawings through the Blue and Rose periods, naturalism (for him), Cubism and on and on through various media from oils to bronze to several types of printmaking, including linoleum blocks and deliberate homages to Rembrandt, Goya, Manet, Cezanne, and Matisse. The" 347 Suite" in itself revisits several of the artist's favorite themes: circus figures, eroticism/nudes, prostitutes, cavaliers, horses, Greek mythology, harlequins, and majas.
Inspiration to Leslie the author: never stop creating; never stop experimenting with different genres.
Then it was on to "American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity," the current costume collection exhibit, which celebrates the American Woman (although many of the garments on display came from the houses of Worth, Lanvin, Molyneux, Madame Grès, and other Europeans). The stunning exhibit welcomes the
Inspiration to Leslie the author: well – you know me and costumes, and for a certain fellow hoyden, I have a feeling this exhibit would have been an equally orgasmic experience. My only regret was that there weren’t a few strategically placed mirrors so that I could view the front of some of the garments, which looked so spectacular from the rear.
Les Belles Heures du Duc de Berry. I studied this early 15th century Book of Hours on both art history and medieval studies courses and it’s a must-see for anyone with a medieval bent. What makes this Book of Hours (a liturgical book meant for the lay person to enjoy, rich with illuminated manuscripts and astonishing miniature detail) so special is that it includes not only the Mary cycle, which is de rigeur for a Book of Hours, but it includes cycles of several saints. What makes the exhibition (on through June 13 only) so remarkable is that until now the duc de Berry’s Book of Hours has never been viewed in its entirety by anyone other than a close personal friend of the duke’s. The Hours were bound, of course, and were on display at The Cloisters, the Met’s uptown medieval sister museum. But the book would be opened to a different page from time to time and that’s all viewers saw. The book was carefully taken apart for painstaking repairs and the curators decided to display every leaf for a few months before stitching it all back together in 3 volumes.
You need a magnifying glass to see the images properly and to really get a sense of the magnitude of the work and the talent of the 3 teenage (!!) Limbourg brothers, native Flamands who were feted at the duc de
Inspiration to Leslie the author: no detail is too small. Not only that, whimsy and humor can lurk where you least expect it.
And, finally (and I need to revisit this one), the exhibit of silver that the Empress of
So … what inspires you? Is there a special place you go to recharge your creative batteries?