We went to Omaha.
We go to Omaha to see the art. Oh yeah, you say, Omaha. Are you sure?
The Joslyn Art Museum, a beautiful Art Deco building, is one of the better museums in the Midwest. We know the permanent collection very well: the Degas sculpture of the dancer, Mary Cassatt’s “Lydia Reading the Morning Paper,” Jules Breton’s “The Weeders,” Jackson Pollock’s “Galaxy,” the Native American collection, and Jean-Léon Gérôme’s dreadful tiger painting, “The Grief of the Pasha.”
We were there for the new exhibition, “Renoir to Chagall: Paris and the Allure of Color,” a collection of French paintings from the Dixon Galleries and Gardens in Memphis.
It is a remarkable show, and if you don’t live in a city with a great Impressionist collection (like Chicago), it provides a wonderful opportunity to spend time with Renoir, Matisse, Monet, Raoul Dufy, Gaston La Tuche, Toulouse-Lautrec, Bether Morisset, Degas, John Singer Sargent, and my new favorite painter, Jean-Louis Forain.
But can you talk about art? After reading a few placards, my husband can talk about brush strokes and color. I’m better at finding patterns in the exhibition (I call it the Carrie in “Homeland” thing).
My only original observation was that many (at least three-fourths) of the paintings had a water theme. Take Gaston La Touche’s “The Joyous Festival (1906), a water scene with four dancing figures, Chinese lanterns, musicians looking as though they are almost in the water, and fireworks (or are those fountains? I need new glasses). La Touche knew and was influenced by Degas and Jean-Louis Forain. He also drew from the Rococo outdoor scenes of Fête Galante paintings.
Monet’s “Port of Dieppe, Evening” (1882), a harbor painting, was a favorite of many of the women. “I love that,” one woman said. “I love that,” I said. My husband liked it, but was more conservative about it. Or I should say he was much more modern, because Chagall was his favorite.
My new favorite painter, however, is Jean-Louis Forain. I admired his watercolor on a linen fan, “Dancer with a Rose.” His “Dancer with a Mirror,” pastel on wave paper with blue fibers, is even more beautiful.
Forain’s “Woman in a Cafe” (1885) is the most interesting portrait in the exhibition. Although I am not that woman in the painting (the placard said she was possibly a courtesan), I recognize the anxiety of waiting, the tiredness. She is no longer young. Divorced in our late thirties and forties, we all used to look like that in coffeehouses. (I’m sure you remember.)
Forain liked to paint “the world of the café, brothel, racetrack, ballet and other aspects of modern Parisian life in the late nineteenth century,” according to the Joslyn Art Museum mobile tour. (I don’t have an iPhone, so I couldn’t listen to this at the museum.) I wish I knew more about the tradition of the courtesan in la vie moderne.
The exhibition will be there until September 1.
And then coffee and books. I feel very guilty, but we had coffee at Starbucks. We wanted comfortable chairs, to read our books, and to be ignored. The patrons did seem to know the baristas, though: it was like a neighborhood coffeehouse.
And then we went to an independent bookstore, The Bookworm.
If you’re going to display Dan Brown’s Inferno, you might as well display Dante, too. I was very interested in the Robin Kirkpatrick translation (Penguin Deluxe Classic edition) of The Divine Comedy, but realized that it would be ridiculous to buy it, since we already have a couple of good translations. (The store has lots of Penguins.)
I liked this paperback display even more. Everything from the new Pharos editions of “out-of-print, lost, or rare books” to David R. Gilham’s City of Women to Stav Sherez’s A Dark Redemption to Tracy Chevalier and Donna Leon. Paperbacks for summer.
We did not have time to stop at A Stitch in Crime (a mystery bookstore) or Jackson Street Booksellers (a used bookstore), but I already had God knows how many books on my e-reader that I didn’t run out of books on the way home.
A very nice day in Omaha.