Grandma Kay and Momdog Tour the Hermitage Museum
August 1995. First, my apologies for a misprint in the date of my first Russia blogs. Mom and I traveled in August of 1995 not March of 1999. This will be my last blog about my Russian trip with the indomitable but remarkable Grandma Kay. I hope you readers enjoyed a look at a Russia few travelers see, much less experience unless their hosts are a Russian family.
Today was the day we’d come to Russia for – to visit the Hermitage Museum and the seventy-four paintings (a major trove of French Impressionist paintings from a German collection) stolen from the Red Army and been hidden for fifty years in the Hermitage. This exhibit was opened to the public for the first time on March 30, 1995, and titled “Hidden Treasures Revealed”.
More than fifty paintings from this fabulous art collection belonged to German industrialist, Otto Krebs. The three paintings Mom and I were particularly excited about seeing were Palace de la Concorde by Degas, In the Garden by Renoir, and White House in the Night by Van Gogh.
Grandma Kay’s interest in these paintings happened when she became a docent at the San Diego Museum of Art, began a one-year course study in art history, and chose the Impressionist era as her specialty. It was during that course of study she developed an affinity for Van Gogh. The opportunity to see this remarkable painting was one of the reasons she booked our trip to Russia.
“What’s so typical of Van Gogh are the tight, short brush strokes,” she told me. Also, note the two red windows. There’s much speculation about the significance of those windows painted six weeks before his death. Why red? Why two? Some believe this painting represented his tension and fear of this imminent crisis. There’s also speculation that the enormous sun in the painting represented anguish. Another interesting fact was Van Gogh felt sunflowers were his signature. He told his brother, Theo, “The sunflower is mine.”
Indeed, they seemed to be.
“Can a painting of flowers have so much underlying meaning?” I asked.
“That’s the fascination of any artistic endeavor,” Mom said. “When you look at a painting, look beyond the technical skill to what pulled you in? Why did Van Gogh paint twelve sunflower scenes and Renoir’s passion was gardens? You’re an artist, but your canvas is words.”
Of course, she was right, but my tools aren’t paintbrushes and canvases. My tools are dialogue, structure, observation, insight, and tenacity. Using words, I try to transport my reader into a world different from the one he’s living in but can still feel a connection. Music? Art? Literature? If one person can connect to another through art – that’s magic.
I excused myself to walk around the neighborhood and take photos. I asked myself what’s interesting? What catches my eye? After a few blocks, I had the answer. Kids and little old ladies. What fascinated me in Florence were brides and bridges. The Italian brides were breathtaking and beautiful, and I liked the way bustling bridges connected commerce to residential areas.
Click: elderly ladies on a park bench and walking together under a forest of trees, green and verdant. A blonde-headed little kid with his mom gigged so loud it made me giggle.
I saw a tennis court and a woman my age serving ace after ace and felt right at home.
Then I walked back to an apartment and new friends that made the trip memorable.