Friday at the Museum

The upside to working long, long (long) days last week is that by the time Friday rolled around, I only had to put in two hours worth of work, which I gloriously accomplished from my sofa in my un-fanciest sweatpants. By mid-morning, I was a free lady, ready to jumpstart my weekend the best way I know how: $3 French onion soup at my favorite diner, and then an afternoon at the museum (that’s its own category now!).

Some people have rituals they adhere to out of respect to the experience, like saying grace before tucking into their meal or wearing the same socks whenever your home team plays. For me, it’s like a gravitational pull the moment I walk in to the museum: I have to go visit the Impressionists first. Sometimes I never make it out of that wing, but on Friday I did end up in one of the upstairs galleries, a Parisian salon from 13, rue Royale, dated 1785. There was a small radio looping a Charles Baudelaire poem, in French and then in English, and I must’ve stayed there for half an hour, just listening. “N’es-tu pas l’oasis où je rêve.”/”You are the last oasis where I dream, afire.” It was skin-tingly.

But something else magical happened, too. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve visited the museum (thousands??) but I’d never seen art students painting in the galleries before Friday. It was my very own École du Louvre moment. And I’m sure I broke their concentration with all my clicking away at the shutter and lurking quietly behind them, but it was just too spellbinding watching them work.

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This Pissarro orchard painting (or a version of it) plays a pretty important role in my novel. The writing, for those of you who have asked recently, is coming along really well. I’ve been meaning to give you a more substantial update (and maybe even another snippet?), and I will, I promise. What a tease.

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March 17, 2014 / art / photo / At the Museum / LEAVE A COMMENT / 30

30 comments

  • You are such a good photographer. I am so envious!

    • Oh, you :) You’re making me blush! Thanks doll. I did go to school for it, after all, so it’s good to hear that degree was well spent!! xo

  • Très belles photos!! J’aurais aimé avoir deux savoir-faire: être écrivaine comme toi et artiste peintre !
    Quand tu finiras ton livre, tu va le vendre sur ton blog?

    • Merci, Eva! Mais je ne suis pas artiste! Je souhaite :) Mon pere etait. Si je ne peux pas obtenir un “book deal” avec un éditeur traditionnel, je ferai le vendre sur mon blog ou Amazon (ils ont “self publishing”). Premier, je dois finir ecrire! xo

  • What an incredible chance, to see painting students at work! Did you have the chance to talk with any of them? I’d love to hear their thoughts on some of the artwork!

    • You know, I thought about it, but they both looked so peaceful and focused and ‘in the zone’ that I really didn’t want to disturb them too much. But I bet they would have loved to talk about their process! Or they would have glowered at me and hated that I interrupted them ;) I guess I’ll never know! Next time, I’ll (politely, unobtrustively) ask if they want to talk. xo

  • So lovely to have captured them working. I’d be so self conscious if I tried to do that! This is why yoga is so hard for me. I have so much trouble keeping my attention on my own mat! I guess they figured they’d be on their own on a Friday afternoon, but they didn’t figure on you! ;)

    • Don’t even get me started on yoga. All the time I’m supposed to not be thinking about anything is the one time ALL of my thoughts start whizzing around. My mom and I were kicked out of a yoga class once for laughing. Long story. ANYWAY, the museum was pretty empty but not as deserted as I thought it would be, and there were a few other people in the gallery with the guy painter (I had to wait my turn to lurk!). Everyone was really respectful and quiet though, more so than the usual museum-quiet. It was really nice. xo

  • Oh I really like how you’ve captured THEM – did they comment on you taking pictures of them or were they too engrossed in their own work?

    • Thanks, Ruth! They didn’t notice me, or if they did, they were used to pretending otherwise. I was really quiet and sneaky, I promise :) But they were really engrossed in their canvases. It was fascinating to watch. xo

  • I love watching students working off of paintings at the museum too – it’s mesmerizing!

    • I could have stood there for hours watching them (were it not entirely creepy ;). xo

  • maybe it’s just early in the morning and i am sensitive, but after reading the sentence about you lurking around the students and then scrolling down to see the close up photo of the guy, i nearly choked on my coffee picturing you crouching along until you got inches away from him and then jumped up to take your photo. but i am thinking that it’s likely that new camera of yours. that’s one nice camera twinsy! i want one. xo

    • You mean…like this:

      but with a camera? Hahaha. Not quite, and I wasn’t as close as the second photo of him suggests (that would have been so creepy!). Thanks, twinsy. I do love this camera, it was such a good investment! I figure, someone who has a Photojournalism degree needs a fancy camera, right? Right :) xo

  • I have seen art students sketching, but I have NEVER seen students using oils. Fascinating! Of course, that’s what used to happen at the Barnes before the art of the steal. I noticed you didn’t call to meet me at the Barnes on your way to the PMA……..
    The plastic under the easel reminds me of your highchair. OK, JK!

    • Now that you mention it, I have seen students sketching before! But it was years ago, and I’d totally forgotten. This was an entirely different enterprise! Full out. It makes sense, though; I go to the museum for inspiration, and painting isn’t even my medium. Of COURSE there would be art students there eventually! I’m just shocked I haven’t run into any before. xo

  • ooo I love watching painters paint especially oil painters because its so lux…

    yay novel!

    • I only have my 50mm (well, and a 28mm) lens so I couldn’t get a really good close-up shot of their canvas without getting awkwardly close, and I decided it was best to not do that :) I wish I had gotten more detail of their canvas, though! xo

  • sounds like a wonderful afternoon. I spend at least one afternoon/evening each weekend in one of our museums too. I’d move in there if I could :)

    • Ooh, that’s my plan one day. When I was a kid I decided that I’d like to live in our museum here, like Anastasia in a grand empty castle :) xo

  • Erin, have you read The Goldfinch? I just finished it—it’s very twisty and turny and features an art heist, so of course I thought of you. It’s definitely worth a read if you haven’t checked it out yet!

    • I did! I finished it in January, and I have mixed feelings about it. If it had been about 250-300 pages shorter I might have enjoyed it more, but a lot of the good story details got lost in Tartt’s overly self-impressed writing. Does that make sense? I know I’m in the minority with this, as everyone RAVED about the book, and don’t get me wrong, it was a good book. Maybe I wanted it to be more about the art heist and less about him drinking and drugging his way through Vegas and NYC? I don’t know. What were your thoughts on it overall? xo

      • No, I totally agree. I was hooked really early on, but by the end I was all “blah blah blah more plot, less self-indulgence plz.” The prose could definitely have been tightened up a bit, even if she didn’t want to go full-on Hemingway. The whole last chapter kind of drove me crazy. I appreciate a lovely turn of phrase (Nicole Krauss is a fave for just that reason) , but in general I want it to feel like it’s contributing to moving the plot forward or developing a character and not just “Hey guys, look what I can do!”

        The characters also just seemed a little inconsistent for my taste. Like, we’re supposed to understand that these guys are deep and intellectual at heart because they understand Thoreau and read The Idiot, but all we ever see them doing is getting drunk and high and sitting in the desert? I mean, I get that she’s going for the whole people-are-complex thing, but it just didn’t ring true for me. But I’m also a giant goody-two-shoes nerd, so maybe that’s why…

        • I completely agree, and you hit the nail on the head with “Hey guys, look what I can do!” It all felt very show-offy by the end (and that freaking chapter in the hotel room in Amsterdam…my god. He’s cold, he’s got chills, he needs a shower, the towels are wet, he’s cold, his coat is dirty, the towels are wet, WE GET IT). And I’m with you on the characters, though I absolutely adored Hobie, I felt like I wanted to give him a big hug the moment we were introduced to him. His house seemed like a place I’d love to see translated onto screen, I bet it would look so magical and crammed with beautiful objects. So in that sense, Tartt had me hooked. But I just never grew to like Theo, and maybe it was because, like you, I couldn’t imagine doing as many drugs or drinking as much as he did from ages what? 14-24? God, he was a wreck. But a wreck I didn’t care about, other than being annoyed by his stupidity.

          By the end I found myself skipping paragraphs after a quick skim (freaking Boris talked for full pages at a time) just to get to the next important plot point. I truly felt she needed a better editor, one who maybe wasn’t her biggest fan, you know? Every writer should be so lucky to have a publisher that lets them go for 750+ pages without any reigning in, though, so maybe I’m just jealous ;) xo

  • A Friday at the museum sounds quite delightful! That, and $3 French onion soup! I miss running around London, spending hours of my time at museums. The V&A museum was my favorite, so much to see as is with the National Gallery. The Pissarro orchard painting is beautifullllll. I can’t wait to hear about your novel! Excitingggg :)

    • You’d think for $3 it would be suspect, but it’s as good (and as cheesy!) as the $14 I’ve had from my favorite French restaurant in town. Sometimes you need a good bargain ;) The V&A is such a beautiful museum, I haven’t been there in almost 10 years though! Ack! That has to change. xo

  • I love that the students paint inside the museum! that is such a pretty sight and gorgeous photos. so worth the creeper status.

    • Totally worth the creeper status! I’ve told myself that they probably didn’t even know I was there, from a combination of their focus and my stealth ;) xo

  • So glad my encouragement for you to work from home paid off and you had a lovely Friday at the museum!