Archives for category: New York City Tips

Simplon Pass: Reading 1911

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) was one of America’s greatest portrait painters. He was a true master of oil painting and was able to capture the soul of the people he painted. Then, in his forties, Sargent abandoned oils to focus on his passion for watercolor. 

I finally had an opportunity to see some of this later work this week at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which is currently showing 93 of his watercolors in an exhibition called John Singer Sargent Watercolors (April 5-July 28, 2013). The paintings feature scenes of Venice, the Alps, country gardens, sailing vessels, and even a few portraits.

The works are enjoyable to look at and certainly demonstrate Sargent’s technical competency at watercolor, but to my mind, these works are too obvious and all surface. They make wonderful postcards, but they lack the psychological depth and intimacy found in his oil portraits. For example, in his masterpiece, Madame X (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Sargent evokes the seething eroticism that lies just beneath the surface. The emotion is repressed and controlled, yet very much part of the painting. Likewise, in the beautifully painted The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (Museum of Fine of Fine Arts Boston), Sargent’s unsettling atmosphere of the four young children suggests alienation and the sad loss of innocence.

Madame X
Oil on Canvas
1884
The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit
Oil on Canvas
1882
















Sargent’s watercolors are definitely worth seeing if only to contrast with his oil portraits; yet, I found the most fascinating part of the exhibition to be the videos that are paired with some of the paintings. Each video shows a contemporary artist demonstrating how Sargent might have painted a particular part of a painting. (They make it look so easy.) 


Simplon Pass: Reading 1911

John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) was one of America’s greatest portrait painters. He was a true master of oil painting and was able to capture the soul of the people he painted. Then, in his forties, Sargent abandoned oils to focus on his passion for watercolor. 

I finally had an opportunity to see some of this later work this week at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which is currently showing 93 of his watercolors in an exhibition called John Singer Sargent Watercolors (April 5-July 28, 2013). The paintings feature scenes of Venice, the Alps, country gardens, sailing vessels, and even a few portraits.

The works are enjoyable to look at and certainly demonstrate Sargent’s technical competency at watercolor, but to my mind, these works are too obvious and all surface. They make wonderful postcards, but they lack the psychological depth and intimacy found in his oil portraits. For example, in his masterpiece, Madame X (The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Sargent evokes the seething eroticism that lies just beneath the surface. The emotion is repressed and controlled, yet very much part of the painting. Likewise, in the beautifully painted The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit (Museum of Fine of Fine Arts Boston), Sargent’s unsettling atmosphere of the four young children suggests alienation and the sad loss of innocence.

Madame X
Oil on Canvas
1884
The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit
Oil on Canvas
1882
















Sargent’s watercolors are definitely worth seeing if only to contrast with his oil portraits; yet, I found the most fascinating part of the exhibition to be the videos that are paired with some of the paintings. Each video shows a contemporary artist demonstrating how Sargent might have painted a particular part of a painting. (They make it look so easy.) 

The night started off with high expectations, but turned out to be mostly about restaurant hygiene. Our itinerary included dinner at Sam’s Place, a favorite of ours, and then, for dessert, a slice of cake from the Buttercup Bake Shop, a bakery that I discovered a few days ago. (Their carrot cake is absolutely delicious!) 

These days, I pay close attention to the NYC Health Department’s restaurant certification, which is supposed to be prominently displayed. I rarely go to restaurants with less than an A rating. At Sam’s Place, the certification appeared to be missing until I discovered a B rating, obscured (no doubt “accidentally”) under some other postings. Somehow the hidden certification bothered me more than the sub-par rating itself. We moved on.

On our way to another restaurant, we passed the Buttercup Bake Shop, and oddly, it appeared closed, even though it was within the posted hours. (This is a common occurrence in Portland but unusual for New York.)

After a wonderful dinner at Chola Eclectic Indian Cuisine (an A rating), we headed back to the Buttercup Bake Shop, still hoping for a slice of that mouthwatering carrot cake. As we approached the Buttercup, we could see it was completely shuttered and locked. Then we saw the Notice. It was posted on the window (see photo at top).

I don’t know how far below A or B rating you need to go to get this kind of Health Department action, but after eating two slices of cake from the Buttercup this week, the Heath Department closure made me laugh and feel queasy at the same time. 

The night started off with high expectations, but turned out to be mostly about restaurant hygiene. Our itinerary included dinner at Sam’s Place, a favorite of ours, and then, for dessert, a slice of cake from the Buttercup Bake Shop, a bakery that I discovered a few days ago. (Their carrot cake is absolutely delicious!) 

These days, I pay close attention to the NYC Health Department’s restaurant certification, which is supposed to be prominently displayed. I rarely go to restaurants with less than an A rating. At Sam’s Place, the certification appeared to be missing until I discovered a B rating, obscured (no doubt “accidentally”) under some other postings. Somehow the hidden certification bothered me more than the sub-par rating itself. We moved on.

On our way to another restaurant, we passed the Buttercup Bake Shop, and oddly, it appeared closed, even though it was within the posted hours. (This is a common occurrence in Portland but unusual for New York.)

After a wonderful dinner at Chola Eclectic Indian Cuisine (an A rating), we headed back to the Buttercup Bake Shop, still hoping for a slice of that mouthwatering carrot cake. As we approached the Buttercup, we could see it was completely shuttered and locked. Then we saw the Notice. It was posted on the window (see photo at top).

I don’t know how far below A or B rating you need to go to get this kind of Health Department action, but after eating two slices of cake from the Buttercup this week, the Heath Department closure made me laugh and feel queasy at the same time. 

Greenacre Park

During my current visit to New York City, I visited two highly praised landscape designs: Green-Wood Cemetery, one of America’s first rural cemeteries, and Greenacre Park, a 1970s pocket park. One was a hit and the other a miss.

Greenacre Park, located on East 51st Street between Second and Third Avenues is a small oasis (only 60 by 120 foot) in Midtown Manhattan. Its spaces are well-defined comprising three levels of fixed and movable seating, a gushing 25 foot multilevel waterfall, and lush plantings. The park transports you from the urban intensity of NYC to a place of quiet repose and tranquility. It’s Landscape Architecture at its best, and is without a doubt, one of my favorite outdoor spots in the entire world! Central Park is wonderful, but Greenacre Park is magic.

Green-Wood Cemetery

On the other hand, Green-Wood Cemetery, located in Brooklyn, left me cold. In a sense, Green-Wood’s success was its undoing. Many of its innovations such as pastoral vistas, meadows, ponds, sculptures, and winding trails are now common features in cemeteries.

Green-Wood comprises 478 acres of hills, valleys, ponds, and winding paths. Founded in 1838, Green-Wood rivaled Niagara Falls as the country’s greatest tourist attraction by the 1860s. In fact, Green-Wood inspired the development of the modern cemetery from a place merely to bury the dead (graveyards) to a place of reflection, intimacy, and comfort. 

Today, Green-Wood is a National Historic Landmark, and is the final resting place for many celebrated politicians, artists, entertainers, and captains of industry, including Leonard Bernstein, Boss Tweed, Horace Greeley, and Samuel Morse. Its history is very special, but its innovative features are hard to appreciate since they’ve been commonplace for over a century. 

Greenacre Park

During my current visit to New York City, I visited two highly praised landscape designs: Green-Wood Cemetery, one of America’s first rural cemeteries, and Greenacre Park, a 1970s pocket park. One was a hit and the other a miss.

Greenacre Park, located on East 51st Street between Second and Third Avenues is a small oasis (only 60 by 120 foot) in Midtown Manhattan. Its spaces are well-defined comprising three levels of fixed and movable seating, a gushing 25 foot multilevel waterfall, and lush plantings. The park transports you from the urban intensity of NYC to a place of quiet repose and tranquility. It’s Landscape Architecture at its best, and is without a doubt, one of my favorite outdoor spots in the entire world! Central Park is wonderful, but Greenacre Park is magic.

Green-Wood Cemetery

On the other hand, Green-Wood Cemetery, located in Brooklyn, left me cold. In a sense, Green-Wood’s success was its undoing. Many of its innovations such as pastoral vistas, meadows, ponds, sculptures, and winding trails are now common features in cemeteries.

Green-Wood comprises 478 acres of hills, valleys, ponds, and winding paths. Founded in 1838, Green-Wood rivaled Niagara Falls as the country’s greatest tourist attraction by the 1860s. In fact, Green-Wood inspired the development of the modern cemetery from a place merely to bury the dead (graveyards) to a place of reflection, intimacy, and comfort. 

Today, Green-Wood is a National Historic Landmark, and is the final resting place for many celebrated politicians, artists, entertainers, and captains of industry, including Leonard Bernstein, Boss Tweed, Horace Greeley, and Samuel Morse. Its history is very special, but its innovative features are hard to appreciate since they’ve been commonplace for over a century. 

Lady with her Maid
Holding a Letter

(Jan Vermeer
1667/1668)

Museums can be overwhelming, but the Frick Collection is a manageable museum that can be seen in a 1-2 hour visit. Located on the corner of East 70th Street and Fifth Avenue, the museum has a small but impressive collection, including three paintings by Jan Vermeer. I’m a Vermeer enthusiast. There are only 34-35 Vermeer’s known to exist, and with three at the Frick and five at the Met, New York City is the Vermeer capital of the world.

The Frick’s Facade facing Fifth Avenue

The museum is housed in the former residence (mansion) of Henry Clay Frick, a Pittsburgh steel baron of the late 19th century, and the building is perhaps even more impressive than the art. Erected in 1913-1914, the museum takes you back in time to America’s gilded age where money could buy almost anything. The lavish decor, the paneled rooms, and the ornate staircase (with pipe organ) belong in an Edith Wharton novel. I hope to go back on a Sunday afternoon because during the summer there’s an artist in residence who gives free drawing lessons in the Frick garden. 

The Frick’s Garden.
Unfortunately, it’s rarely open to the public.






Lady with her Maid
Holding a Letter

(Jan Vermeer
1667/1668)

Museums can be overwhelming, but the Frick Collection is a manageable museum that can be seen in a 1-2 hour visit. Located on the corner of East 70th Street and Fifth Avenue, the museum has a small but impressive collection, including three paintings by Jan Vermeer. I’m a Vermeer enthusiast. There are only 34-35 Vermeer’s known to exist, and with three at the Frick and five at the Met, New York City is the Vermeer capital of the world.

The Frick’s Facade facing Fifth Avenue

The museum is housed in the former residence (mansion) of Henry Clay Frick, a Pittsburgh steel baron of the late 19th century, and the building is perhaps even more impressive than the art. Erected in 1913-1914, the museum takes you back in time to America’s gilded age where money could buy almost anything. The lavish decor, the paneled rooms, and the ornate staircase (with pipe organ) belong in an Edith Wharton novel. I hope to go back on a Sunday afternoon because during the summer there’s an artist in residence who gives free drawing lessons in the Frick garden. 

The Frick’s Garden.
Unfortunately, it’s rarely open to the public.






New York City is very expensive, but, during the summer months, there are a number of activities that the public can enjoy for free. For example, Bryant Park, located next to the NYC’s Public Library, hosts weekly Tai Chi, yoga, fencing, dancing, juggling, and foreign language classes – all conducted on a drop-in basis and for free.

In addition, on Thursdays from 12:30 – 1:30, there is Broadway in Bryant Park, an hour-long presentation featuring some of Broadway’s popular shows and performed by cast members. The day I visited, songs from Stomp, Phantom of the Opera, Spider-Man, and Porgy and Bess were featured. The audience sat at picnic tables, on chairs, or brought their own blankets to enjoy the entertainment while eating lunch. I’m not particularly fond of Broadway show tunes, but the audience enthusiasm was so addictive that I was able to have a good time anyway. 



New York City is very expensive, but, during the summer months, there are a number of activities that the public can enjoy for free. For example, Bryant Park, located next to the NYC’s Public Library, hosts weekly Tai Chi, yoga, fencing, dancing, juggling, and foreign language classes – all conducted on a drop-in basis and for free.

In addition, on Thursdays from 12:30 – 1:30, there is Broadway in Bryant Park, an hour-long presentation featuring some of Broadway’s popular shows and performed by cast members. The day I visited, songs from Stomp, Phantom of the Opera, Spider-Man, and Porgy and Bess were featured. The audience sat at picnic tables, on chairs, or brought their own blankets to enjoy the entertainment while eating lunch. I’m not particularly fond of Broadway show tunes, but the audience enthusiasm was so addictive that I was able to have a good time anyway.