Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Japanese art, brisk walks & other joys in Hartford

Was it that I had slept well? (OK very well). That it was sunny, with a dry kind of cold that's tolerable (even pleasant!) if you've layered up and are engaging in a brisk walk?

Was it indeed that brisk walk, a rapid tour of West Hartford on a sleepy Sunday morning at 9 a.m.?

Or the injection of art, occasioned by a visit to the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford?

Perhaps my reverie owes itself quite simply to the Wadsworth, which insiders surely know is the very definition of a gem, an old world artifact that has miraculously survived into our present age. Or maybe it's the joy in general we humans take in beautiful objects, exquisitely presented. And the small treasure of a museum that turns out to be not so small after all (in any way, given the museum's staggering collection of 50,000 works of art).

I cannot tell you precisely what lifted me up off the ground Sunday and seemed prepared to send me into orbit, I only know the look of pure wonder on my face as I walked through an exhibit on Kitagawa Utamaro's art was genuine.

Indeed I can only say that after walking quickly through the Japanese art exhibit following a tour of the permanent collection, I returned to Mike and Leo and I said, "Quasi quasi sono sopraffatta." Meaning: I'm practically overwhelmed. On top of the museum being positively crammed with art, the exhibit on Japanese ukiyo-e works was so well-done, so engrossing that I instinctively grasped the fever some Westerners feel for Japan and other Asian cultures (I'm thinking especially of some Italian friends who are enamored by Asian imagery and cuisine).

Some of these notes I scribbled while Mike and Leo made their own ukiyo-e landscape prints at a D.I.Y. station for kids beside the exhibit.

As I watched the two at the drawing table, I scribbled about the museum and I scribbled about the mental attack I was having. Of course "attack" doesn't sound like the right word but I felt almost besieged by happiness! Besieged by creativity and possibility!

At the risk of repeating myself, I guess I could write out a recipe (or a prescription). Take one night of 8-9 hours of solid sleep, add one cup of Southern Italian coffee (I recommend Caffe Kimbo or Guglielmo or if you're visiting Puglia, buy Quarta caffe), an hour of writing, breakfast with Super Boy, and, wait for it, wait for it, an hour's brisk walk (in this case, around West Hartford) on a cold but sunny Sunday morning.

But back to the museum: What a treasure. In some rooms, the paintings are stacked one on top of another -- like Palazzo Pitti in Florence -- comprising every genre and era.

In a rather unscientific summary, can I say there appear to be an insane number of masterpieces for a "small" museum?

Obviously, cognoscenti do not consider the Wadsworth Atheneum a small museum. But nonetheless it is not always spoken of in the same breath as the Met or the MOMA or the Art Institute of Chicago.

Still for me, it joins a small list of lesser known museums -- like the Museo del Novecento in Florence -- that can entice you to while away the hours of a Sunday again and again. Because the hours spent among these masterpieces will turn into entire days of reminiscing with wonder and joy.

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