Friday, May 14, 2021

Morgan Library and Museum


John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) was one of the biggest financiers and bankers of the “gilded age”. He was a driving force in the creation of many of the largest companies on the United States. In the process he accumulated a fortune that would be the equivalent of $1.2billion on today’s dollars. Near the end of his life he used much of his fortune to amass a collection of books and artworks.

JohnPierpontMorgan.jpgderivative work: Beao, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1902, he decided to build a library to hold his collection. He built an Italian style building based on villas from the 16th century. He built the library amid a block of land on which he had built homes for children.

In 1924, J.P. Morgan Jr. turned his father’s collection and the library itself into a public institution. The Morgan Library and Museum continued to expand it collection and its space. Over the decades, it bought the surrounding land and built annexes and offices. The buildings underwent a major renovation from 2003-2006, creating a new entrance and an enclosed courtyard, along with gallery space. Today, its mission is to “preserve, build, study, present, and interpret a collection of extraordinary quality.” The museum also creates and displays exhibits of art and related materials.

The original library holds Morgan’s collection of classic Italian art and old books from around the world. On one side of the original building is Morgan’s study, complete with a pro train of the man, along with renaissance paintings and sculptures.

J.P. Morgan by Frank Owen Salisbury

The opposite wing is Morgan’s library. Here there are thousands of books, on three levels. The books are from all over the world, and from Amy centuries. There is also beautiful artwork in the library.

In between the two wings is the rotunda. This was the original entrance to the building. The dome is decorated with paintings inspired by Raphael’s works in the Vatican.

The museum has created several galleries for exhibitions. The lower level galleries were hosting two small exhibits drawings. On one wall was “Sublime on the Small Scale,” a collection of small drawings

Ischia and the Bay of Naples by Moonlight by circle of Pierre Henri de Valenciennes

Jungfrau, Münch and Eiger by Carl Morgenstern

On the other was a set of drawings by Édouard Vuillard (through May 30, 2021).

The Theater Box

Young Woman Seated on Sofa

In the 2nd floor gallery was “Conversations in Drawing: Seven Centuries of Art from the Gray Collection” (through June 6, 2021). This exhibit shows a wide range of drawings spanning from several centuries.

Study of a Draped Woman by François Boucher

Reclining Nude by Pablo Picasso

Study of a Seated Youth by Giovani Battista Naldini

Apollo Driving the Chariot of the Sun by Lelio Orsi

Untitled by Joan Miró

In the main gallery, on the first floor was “David Hockney: Drawing from Life.”(through May 30) This exhibit included dozens of portrait drawings done over the entirety of Hockney’s career. The exhibit presents multiple portraits of a few people done over many years. It presents a wonderful look at the different styles Hockney employed over his life.

Self Portrait 1954

Mother, Bradford, May 19, 1979

Artist and Model, 1973-74

An image of Gregory, 1984

Self Portrait with Red Braces, 2003

The Morgan Library is another one of the often over-looked, smaller museums that makes New York a fantastic place to find culture without having to visit the larger institutions, and without having to fight large crowds.

Nuts and Bolts
The Morgan Library is located at 225 Madison Ave, at 36th Street. It is a short walk from all of the subways that stop at Grand Central Terminal.
Entrance fees: Adults $22/ Seniors $14/ Students $13

Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Japan Society



New York City is home to many institutions that represent and promote the cultures from countries around the world. The Japan Society is has done this work for over one hundred years, with a mission to foster closer ties between Japan and the United States through cultural, policy, business and education programs.

The Japan Society was founded in 1907 in New York City, organizing events honoring Japanese culture and history. Over the decades the Japan Society has organized lectures and art exhibits for the public. It sponsors trips and educational exchanges for teachers. The leaders of the society have included many luminaries of United States politics, including Henry Waters Taft, brother of president Taft. The society shut down after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and did not reopen until the final treaties were signed between the U.S. and Japan in 1951. When it reopened, the society was led by John D. Rockefeller, who served as its president from 1952 through 1969, and as its chairman from 1969 until his death in 1978. During this time, the Japan Society greatly expanded its programs, and, in 1971, opened their permanent home, built opposite Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the United Nations.

My visit to the Japan Society was to see an exhibition titled “When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan.” (Open through July 11) It celebrates the tradition of architecture and building wood temples, shrines and bridges. “Practice” starts with two videos, one by architect Sou Fujimoto, who developed the exhibit, as he explains the ideas and philosophy presented. The second video show the construction of a shrine using these traditional methods.

The Japan Society’s three galleries are divided into different aspects traditional carpentry. The first shows how buildings and bridges are designed. Here there are models of projects along with the dies used to shape the wood pieces that will be used. 

Pattern Dies

Model of the Yakushi-ji Temple

Elevation Drawing for Hōrin-ji Temple by Tsunekazu Nishioka

Plan for Rafters for Yakushi-ji Tample by Tsunekazu Hishioka

The second gallery shows the tools of the trade. Saws, planes and chisels are displayed, and it is quite a set that master carpenters need to do their work.

Finally, the third gallery explores the ways that carpenters have developed to join and secure the structural pieces together without using nails and bolts.

If you are interested in Japanese culture definitely check out the Japan Society. They offer a wide range of activities, but don’t forget to visit and enjoy their art exhibitions.

Peace Gorilla by Noa Bornstein

Nuts and Bolts:
The Japan Society is located at 333 E 47th Street, NYC. The Gallery is open Thursday- Monday 11 AM - 5 PM. Fees - Adults $12/ Seniors and Students $10  

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Petrified Forest National Park


When you travel across eastern Arizona, there is one must see attraction - the Petrified Forest National Park. It is an amazing place, full of things that found almost no where else.

The Petrified Forest National Park is a thin ribbon of a park, that stretches forty miles north to south, while varying from one to twelve miles in width. The north entrance of the park sits along Interstate 40, about 70 miles west of Gallup, NM.

When you come into the park from this entrance, the first thing you will find is the Painted Desert. This part of the park is particularly beautiful.  225 million years ago, this part of North America was covered by a sea. Over millions of years minerals and silts were carried into the water, where they settled out. The weight of the new sediment caused those below to change from mud to rock, but they kept the color of the minerals that they were made of. Today, that sea has disappeared, but the rocks it formed are still here. As you drive through the Painted Desert, you can see the different layers of rock, as the hills are colored with wide stripes of minerals, painting the landscape.

The first inhabitants came to the area around 12,000 years ago. They were a nomadic people, following the availability of animals to hunt and plants to harvest. By around 8000 BCE they were building seasonal camps, and staying for longer periods. The first permanent settlements were constructed around 1000 CE, and for the next 600 years, the ancestors of the Pueblo and Hopi peoples lived here. Last week I wrote about Homol’ovi State Park, where you can explore the remains of of these settlements. One thing that these people did was to create petroglyphs and pictographs in areas that, we believe, had religious and spiritual significance. Archeologists believe that these carvings and paintings represent animals, and spirit guides that were important to people who created them.

The real draw of the park is the petrified forest for which it is named. When dead trees washed into the ancient sea, some of them sank to the bottom and were covered by mud. This prevented oxygen from getting to the wood and causing decomposition. Instead, minerals from the water infiltrated the wood, and as the wood broke down, the minerals crystalized, taking the shape and striations of the tree. They formed the rocks that you can see today, shaped like trees, but in beautiful colors. There are many places to pull over and walk among them.

A trip to the Petrified Forest National Park is a unique and beautiful place to visit. It is worth the detour off of the interstate. 

Nuts and Bolts:

Getting There -
Westbound: Take I-40 to exit 311 for the Park’s north entrance.
Eastbound: Take I-40 to exit 285 (Holbrook) and drive 19 miles along route AZ-180 South to the south entrance of the Park.

Fees: a 7-day auto pass is $25 for one car and all passengers.