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Snax Online is undergoing a redesign and will be moving to a new location. Check back from time to time for a link. In its new format, this blog will cover a wider range of topics but also its usual five. In the meantime, keep up with what's happening in the world of books, art, food, film, and travel at http://www.FEASTofBooks.com --

See you in 2011!!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Art, Artists, and Hanging In . . .

We are fortunate to have as our latest guest blogger the best-selling author and actor RON MCLARTY writing today about art. Art as the centerpiece of short trips to some of the finest museums in the US is an exciting way to frame a travel adventure. In addition to the refreshment found in new surroundings, your imagination is sparked with bold palettes, fresh and traditional ideas, genius, and, for a writer, original connections to inspire your work. Welcome Ron!

--Rosemary Carstens


By Ron McLarty

Even with the plethora of exciting exhibits around New York, my wife, Kate Skinner, and I are occasionally drawn away from our traditional haunts to those one-of-a-kind presentations in other cities. A few years ago for example, we took the train to Philadelphia for the Museum of Art’s exhibit of some rarely shown works of Andrew Wyeth. We loved the drawings and watercolors, which displayed his gift for portraying the quiet simplicity and beauty of both interiors and landscape. And we had a ball playing hooky from our regular daily grind at the Ritz. So, a few months ago, when Kate read about two major exhibitions at the National Gallery in Washington D.C., we didn’t need to think twice about another few days of picture viewing to see their exhibits of Edward Hopper (1882–1967) and JMW Turner (1775–1851).

We traveled by train, which is quite nice as long as you steel yourself against the cell phone bores that are proliferating at an alarming rate—even in the “quiet car,” where you have to be asleep not to notice all the NO CELL PHONE signs, not to mention announcements regularly made by the conductor! I suppose it won’t get any better but it does make you think back to not so long ago when the tools of disruption weren’t in the hands of the traveler or the theatergoer and a little peace was possible.

We stayed at the Hotel George, a small hotel we first stayed at on the book tour for my novel, The Memory of Running. It’s an excellent base of operations as it is within walking distance of Union Station and the Mall and has a superb restaurant, Bisto Bis. Kate has appeared in 11 plays in D.C., including 8 at the Shakespeare Theatre and knows the Capitol like the back of her hand.

We began our tour of the National Gallery with their permanent exhibition of Small French Paintings, which is filled with small works by many well-known impressionists. Favorites included works by Berthe Morisot, Toulouse Lautrec, and Corot. From there we moved on to the Hopper upstairs. I was struck by how familiar all his work feels, even the many works I had never seen in any other venue. I had heard references to his arrangement of space and especially light but didn’t understand it until I stood in front of those paintings his wife posed for. He seemed to be saying that everything we take for granted can also be viewed as abnormal or even bizarre. And though his work is unlike Wyeth’s, they both understood the power and simplicity of the world around them to a profound degree.

That many of Hopper's astonishing paintings were completed while he earned his living as an illustrator was particularly thrilling to me. He didn’t sell his first painting until he was over forty. I was fifty-five before I got my first novel in print and while I’m not foolish enough to ever compare my efforts to this giant, it’s inspiring to know that along with his amazing artistic vision he brought substantial endurance to the table.

Even though Kate and I were quite overcome by Hopper’s life’s work, we took the stairs to the underground passage connecting the newer wing to the older part of the National Gallery to view the life’s work of that great English master, JMW Turner. I was put off at first by the exhibit because of what seemed to me super-patriotic depictions of events such as the Battle of Trafalgar. But Kate’s deep and delicate eye for art pointed out how his later work was the obvious precursor for the impressionists yet to come, and his work evolved right up to the end. He, too, brought endurance to the table though, as opposed to Hopper, he gained fame and fortune right away. In 1798 at the age of twenty-three he was elected to the Royal Academy. It’s nice to know that when he died he willed the English people all his paintings and left his fortune to “the maintenance and support of poor and male decayed artists.”

The following day, we set out to see the Impressionists by the Sea exhibit at the Phillips Collection. Phillips was a major collector of mostly modern art and the museum is housed in his old mansion which connects to a newer wing. It was a lovely if not startling exhibit and, as always, a pleasure to view the collection at what Kate considers one of the finest small museums in the country.

I’ve since been very busy in old New York, correcting the proofs of my third novel, Art in America (July 2008) and completing narration of the current season of “Murder By The Book” for Court TV. My series on Fox, ‘The Return of Jezebel James,’ debuts March 12. As time permits, we will continue to pursue our love of art and travel.

RON MCLARTY is the author of The Memory of Running (Viking 2004), Traveler (Viking 2007), and the forthcoming Art in America (Viking 2008). He is also a veteran character actor with a long career in films and television and one of the leading audio book narrators. He lives in New York City with his wife, actress Kate Skinner. For more information: http://www.ronmclarty.com/ .Photo of Ron McLarty by Jerry Bauer.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for the reminder that good things can come to those who endure! It often feels that the most important contributions I might make to the world are in process, now, during the last third of my life.

I smiled, too, because it seems to me that so thoughtfully making it through all those exhibits required a bit of endurance on your part, too! I look forward to seeing the new book when it comes out.

Melanie Mulhall

ClaireWalter said...

If you are a fan of the Wyeths' works, I hope that you have visited the Farnsworth Museum and its Wyeth Center on Rockport, ME. Their collection includes N.C Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and James Wyeth and their contemporaries. The Maine Eastern Railroad even runs seasonal service to nearby Rockland. (See http://www.farnsworthmuseum.org/wyeth/wyeth.html for mmuseum info and http://www.maineeasternrailroad.com/ for details on this excursion train)

Claiire @ http://travel-babel-blogspot.com

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The Farnsworth Museum and Wyeth Center is actually in Rockland, along with the Maine Eastern Railroad.

I'm a Wyeth fan myself. I was going to paint a scene once and kept putting it off. Then I saw a painting of the same scene at the Farnsworth. Guess who it was signed by...yep, Andrew Wyeth himself.