Monday, November 9, 2009

Into the Woods

Last month I visited The Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, New York.  It's a lovely old mansion on the north shore of Long Island in and around the areas known as the Gold Coast.  That nickname was made popular by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his novel The Great Gatsby.  Many of these homes were built and owned by millionaires all living the good life here.  

This particular estate was owned by Henry Clay Frick, co-founder of U.S. Steel Corporation, in 1919.  The Georgian mansion was a wedding gift for his son, Childs.  The mansion home was built on land owned by William Cullen Bryant, and named Clayton.  In 1969, the estate was purchased by Nassau County to be converted to the Museum of Art.

It was my first time at this museum and I wanted to see the current exhibit of original paintings by Norman Rockwell, the noted illustrator of the Saturday Evening Post and other periodicals.  He liked to represent the everyday basic human experience in his art.  “I paint life as I would like it to be,” he once said.

Seeing the oil paintings close up, I was able to detect his brush strokes and get a feel for how he prepared his works.  They showed oil sketches that Rockwell used to develop the final paintings.  It was a very large, involved exhibition and filled the whole museum. 

Spanning the decades of his career through several wars and painting styles.  His realistic, painterly approach finally met up with the more modernistic styles of other artists in the 1960's and 1970's.  The paintings were larger than I expected and utterly beautiful.

After viewing the exhibit I took my time looking at the museum building and surrounding grounds. The garden leading to and from the mansion was full of different sculptures scattered around the acreage.  On my way back to my car I found hiking trails and several formal gardens, each with it's own design and flavor.  I decided to take a quick walk through one of the trails just to see what was there. 

As I walked I was thinking that my heeled shoes were all wrong for a hike, but I kept going.  The trees grew taller, the underbrush denser, and the sky was hidden the further I walked.  It was beautiful and quiet.  The sun sent it's rays down through the trees to settle on fallen branches in the path.  Serene and wonderful.  Did I bring my sketchbook with me? Of course not! 

Suddenly, it dawned on me that I was all alone on a path in the woods!  It was time to head back.  I took a few photos of some spots that were too beautiful not to record and walked a little faster.  When I came out of the trail I saw a sign that said, "Use trails at your own risk." Oh oh.

I'm glad I had my museum adventure, but next time I need to be prepared.

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