You’ve heard of how All roads lead to Rome – in the U.S. it’s a bit like that, except … All roads lead to New York. New York City on Manhattan Island.
And what an island it is – nothing prepares you for the noise of a multitude of people; the architecture – immense, classical, modern and every style inbetween. The stink wafting from the sewers beneath the roads; brilliantly design and efficient subway system; honking, impatient drivers; some of the world’s best art galleries. Gotta love this city!
Our hotel, the Comfort Inn on Central Park West is comfortable, quiet, cheap for NY, in a leafy street in a block opposite Central Park and around the corner from where John Lennon was shot. It’s also close to most of the galleries and museums I want to see.
And our luck holds true – this year is the 400th anniversary of Dutch explorer, Henry Hudson’s journey from Amsterdam and in 1609 ended up on a small island, known locally by the Lenni Lanape natives as Mannahatta. So this year, the Dutch Government lent one of their most famous paintings to the Metropolitan Art Gallery for the occasion – Johannes (Jan) Vermeer’s The Milkmaid.
I’ve seen images of The Milkmaid, in art books, but paper images never do justice to the real paintings. This is no exception – it’s another heart-stopping moment in art for me. (Yes, I know, get a life, Sheryl!)
We join the reverent group staring at the work in a room dimmed to protect the assembled Dutch masters. It even has its own security guard standing next to it – a stern-faced, black American dressed in black … no one gets too close to the work, no photographs even without flash.
The canvas is small, intimate and beautiful – only 45.5 x 41cm – but it’s obvious why this painting looms so large in the imagination. Vermeer was 25 years old when he painted it in 1657-58 in his home-town of Delft. As an artist he was fascinated with light and with direct observation of his subject.
That excellent movie, The Girl with the Pearl Earring with Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson gives a good insight into Vermeer’s obsession with light, and setting up the scene, and mixing his own colours. He was ahead of his time and his work even has its own art term now, the Delft School.
I can’t tell you about every wonderful, amazing, beautiful, stunning art work we viewed in New York – you’d run out of patience with my blog! Any art lovers out there? Guess what lined the walls of the twisting Guggenheim Museum? All of Kandinsky’s works! In glorious technicolour. Ahhhh.
But for lovers of children’s books reading this blog – here’s a treat. And yes, it was another serendipitous moment.
We happened across The Morgan Library & Museum in Madison Ave – a collection put together by another dead, wealthy, magnate, Pierpont Morgan. (Think pages from William Blake, Jane Austen, Bob Dylan, Beethoven and Mozart scores, Oscar Wilde letters to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas, Hemmingway, and paintings by Picasso, Rembrandt, to name a few.)
In a special room are the original working pencil sketches and drafts of Maurice Sendak‘s Where the Wild Things Are – a story familiar to millions of readers. The drafts show scribbles of a story filtering in his head, ‘Where the wild horses are’ and a wild boy who searches for them. They also show the appearance of Max in his wolf suit.
At the bottom of the paper, Sendak gives up in disgust . “Drop this story for time being—I’m forcing it, and it won’t be forced.” After another try at a verse story about Max and the wild things Sendak scrawls ALL BAD!!!