In between snow shoveling and cross- country skiing, we managed to get to two museums. Each couldn’t have been more different.
Friday, we had booked tickets in advance to the Frick Museum’s blockbuster exhibit, “Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis.” The Frick, housed in a New York City 5th Avenue mansion built by industrialist Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), holds masterpieces of Western painting, sculpture, and decorative art displayed in period rooms that seem rather dark and dusty. I remember visiting The Frick while in college, to see for real what I’d learned in Art History. Unlike other big NYC art institutions that I tend to visit more often, I hadn’t been back here. The lure—and recommendations—to see the famous milkmaid in JohannesVermeer’s 1665 “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” provided a nice respite from the bitter cold. Tickets are for timed entry, so there’s waiting a bit, and then inside, it’s obvious the staff isn’t used to the attention and crowds. Never mind. TGWTPE has her own wall and personal museum guard. Not the type to stand too long before any painting, I looked a few times and remembered both the novel and movie that really bring the painting to life.
The exhibit continues in the next room, where I had to squirrel between people to catch a glimpse of Carel Fabritius’s 1654 “Goldfinch” which probably would be ignored if it wasn’t driving the plot behind Donna Tartt’s new novel, The Goldfinch. I’m reading the book now. I love it so far and am awed that this small painting inspired a nearly 800-page novel. Tartt relocated the little bird to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Aside from these two, my favorite painting was the largest in the exhibit. A 1668 mural by Jan Steen depicts three generations all imbibing alcohol or smoking from long pipes. A statement about family life?
On Sunday, we picked up two of the grands for a much -anticipated outing. It was our first time taking them out for an extended period without their parents. Lunches packed, we traded cars—we have only one car seat—and transferring the car seats proves more labor intensive than it’s worth, and arrived when the New Jersey’s Morris Museum opened. No crowds and very kid-friendly. We first watched the model train exhibit, then toured the Lego sculptures, realizing fast that they can’t read “Keep off the Art” signs and had to steer them away from climbing on the structures.
We saw a stuffed black bear and a grizzly; an indoor mini-mock cave, and what we had really come for—the dinosaur exhibit. Our eldest grandson is into dinosaurs now and we’d promised him this excursion. It’s the perfect place to start; the larger Natural History museums will be next. They pretended to be eggs in a dinosaur nest, touched a real dinosaur egg protected by thick plastic, heard the dinosaur “sing”, and marveled at the teeth on the T-Rex head. We learned about New Jersey’s dinosaurs and saw a preserved bowling ball- sized coprolite, or dinosaur dung. A ride in the service elevator provided another highlight. We returned to the car, ate our sandwiches and brought them home having learned a bit from the museum and a few tidbits for future adventures.