Living in the mountains, when visitors travel to us, they must fly into airports 2 or 3 hours away. We accept this as part of the trade-off for our farm life. Recently, we had several relatives flying into the BWI, we made the trek to Baltimore to pick them up. An advantage of this trip to town is that we had time to do some touring. Having lived closer to Washington, D.C. previously, we are familiar with the museums bordering the National Mall. Baltimore was one of those destinations that we did not quite get to. This trip, we managed to take in the Baltimore Museum of Art…twice.
Our first visit was the day on which two parties arrived from two different cities, about four hours apart. We used the time between flights to take in a section of the museum. We were nearly derailed, as a Saturday morning run was going on about 2 blocks from the museum. Those 2 blocks were between our route and the museum. With some detouring, we eventually found an open cross-street in order to back track. For all our perseverance, we arrived about 45 minutes before the museum opened. A stroll in the park across the street occupied us until the doors opened. We enjoyed their collection of early 20th century paintings so much, that we returned a week later with the rest of our visitors, prior to their flights home.
The museums has a number of exhibit spaces where are under renovation over the next few years. This provided about half of the rooms for displays of portions of their collection, which spans from Roman mosaics to contemporary sculptures. Adjoining the museum building and restaurant, is a sculpture garden. The walkways descending to several levels of terraces, is worth stretching your legs before or after viewing he galleries.
While the rooms do not display the volume of art in larger museum spaces in major USA cities, the curators have carefully selected paintings and sculpture from their collections. You will first stroll through classical European pieces. A court yard is surrounded by hallways with ancient mosaics. The Cone collection of impressionists through surrealists art forms the core of the museum. As with many museums, patrons who amassed collections of art, often by contemporary artists, donated their collections to provide the general public an opportunity to view them. Claribel & Etta Cone offered their collection to the Baltimore Museum of Art. Other patrons have filled in other eras for the galleries.
In addition to selecting key art pieces from their collections, the museum curators must have a sense of humor. We surmise this from the positioning of several pieces of sculpture and paining in relation to how they might be viewed. For instance, in the European Art rooms, the sculpture of a man and women in passionate embrase and kiss, when viewed from behind the woman, has two stern looking portraits looking down as if they are thinking “Too much PDA”. Or in one of the Matisse rooms, a reclined nude sculpture compares herself to a reclined nude painting, as if she were looking in a mirror with 3-dimenions turned into 2-dimensions. Maybe my eye just has too much imagination, or likes nake women. My wife goes for the later conclusion.
An appeal of the musem is the ease of wandering and viewing. Unlike the hoards of patrons crowding around famous works in other famous museums, BMA has a relaxed flow of viewers. Often, we might be the only one’s in a gallery for several minutes. We did not need to wait to see a painting, or were forced along with the flow of the masses. The museum also had a mix of viewers of all cultural backgrouns (skimpy tops to head scarves) and ages. That day, they had a family art program in which children and parents constructed colorful images with paper, etc.
Also, unlike the hush-hush, intellectual-comments-only galleries of other museums, the open galleries leads to interations. Except for the special exhibits and fragile prints, you could take photos (no tripods or flash) for personal use. Families and couples gathered around their favorite paintings to have pictures to remember the day by.
While I snapped a shot of a small painting, entiled “The Lie”, a preschool girl commented about me taking this picture:
Girl: “You took a picture”
Me: “Do you see the lady in the red dress? Do you like that? I see that you made a scultpure to take home.”
Girl: “Do you have a daughter?”
Me: “No, but I have a wife. She’s over there”
Girl: “My daddy has a wife.” (mother blushes)
Me: “That’s good.”
Girl: “I have two mommies and daddies.” (mother blushes more) “My daddy’s other wife lives in California.” (okay, time to change the subject)
Me: “Do you see that painting with the man playing a musical instrument? I played a cello like that when I was a boy.” (quick escape back to my party and save the mother more blushing…)
Oh, the wonders of art.