Yesterday J and I took the T into Boston to go to the Museum of Fine Arts, where we saw Paul Cezanne’s “The Large Bathers,” which is currently on loan from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, as well as an exhibit of samurai armor. Although I don’t know much about Cezanne or the samurai, I was enchanted by both exhibits, albeit in entirely different ways.
Cezanne’s “Bathers” are calmly monumental with their bold, blurry pastels. Although the painting is in oil, Cezanne creates a watercolor-like effect that is simultaneously provocative and mesmerizing: the kind of painting you could study for an eternity, drawn into the depths of its soothing pastoral vision.
Displayed alongside Paul Gauguin’s equally evocative “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going,” Cezanne’s “Bathers” represents a turn away from the classical nude, which seems almost too-perfect in its idealized timelessness, and toward a more embodied Modernist vision. The bodies Cezanne and Gauguin depict look like actual, earthly bodies at rest, and it seems natural to rest a while in their presence.
The pieces of samurai armor currently on display at the MFA, on the other hand, are almost cartoonishly quirky, and I immediately fell in love with them. After walking through several galleries containing glass-case examples of helmets, breastplates, shin-guards, and other armature, J and I entered a room with two life-size free-standing displays: on one side, a trio of fully-bedecked warriors galloping on heavily-armored steeds…
…and on the other, a gang of walking warriors, their ornate armature letting enemies know in an instant that these guys mean business.
When you look like a bad-ass space alien and carry a big sword, you can let your appearance do the talking.
This is the last week of the semester at Framingham State, which means I’ll be swamped with paper-grading for the next two weeks. It felt good to take a virtual vacation at the MFA yesterday, traveling first to France to lounge with Cezanne and then to imperial Japan to stand with samurai. I’ve set the photo at the top of this post as my desktop background: a silent reminder to stay samurai strong over the next few, tiring weeks.
Click here to see my complete photo-set from yesterday’s MFA outing. Enjoy!