Bay Reflection
In Our Big Cities, Impressionists Throw Light on Country Life
by Stephen B. Armstrong

When I was growing up in tiny little Riva, Maryland, the big city beckoned. It was there, I thought, where I would find the artists and the sophistication and the culture that only a city can support.

So I moved to Baltimore.

And there, for four years, I ran with the artistes - actors, writers, musicians - and I tasted the urban slice of life. While the experience enriched me - irrevocably - it also wore me out.

So recently I moved back to Riva, and I'm happy to be near the farms and the barns and the rivers and the trees again. Now I can visit Baltimore when I want to, as I did last week to view the current, and splendid, Monet exhibition at the Walters Gallery. What a show that is.

Called "Paintings at Giverny," the show presents a series of studies the celebrated Impressionist Claude Monet created in his famous gardens in the French countryside, paintings that capture the transient and lovely effects of light on plants and flowers and water. It's a show that reminds me why cities are great, for only a city could support it, could house it in a large gallery and promote it to a large audience, could afford it.

Baltimore isn't the only city in our region with a great gallery or even a great Impressionist show.

In the District of Columbia at the National Gallery, right now there's a show called "At The Races," a sprawling collection of paintings, sketches and statues of horses by Edgar Degas. In this show we can see the terrible force of a steeplechase and the poised grace of resting thoroughbreds and the stoic eyes of jockeys - all in a French countryside thick with green hills and pale blue skies. What a lovely and timely complement to the Preakness this show is.

It's the city - the city alone - that has the muscles and the shoulders to support it.

But I'm not envious of the people who live close enough to the Walters or the National Gallery, to, on a whim, drop by for a look at Monet and Degas. Because when I lived there, in the city, I was always busy, always trying to make ends meet and always looking over my shoulder. I never had time - and after a while not even the interest - to look at paintings. City living can be hard.

Now, though, in the semi-rural calm of where we live, my interests have begun to revive and flourish, and I am beginning to experience a new pleasure, a new joie de vivre, in my old place.

Monet and Degas were city men, too, you know. Men who needed Paris for contacts, ideas and money. But you can tell, from the current shows, that these men discovered something great in the land outside Paris, a countryside - with gardens and water and farms and horses - that resembles ours.


"Monet: Painting of Giverny from the Musée Marmottan" hangs at the Walters Art Gallery through May: 888/844-4242. "Degas at the Races" shows at the National Gallery of Art thru July 12: 202/737-4215 ·

| Back to Archives |

Volume VI Number 19
May 14-20, 1998
New Bay Times

| Homepage |