It’s a Country Inn Day – Culture Day

cleveland art museum
The Cleveland Museum of Art

On this snowy Country Inn Day I decided a cultural outing was in order so I left my cozy Inn mid-morning and took a 45 minute drive north to the University Circle neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland. This neighborhood always makes me feel more intelligent just by driving through it because genius seems to be in the air here; that’s because University Circle is home to many fine institutions and brilliant minds.  There’s Case Western Reserve University, Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra, The Cleveland Botanical Garden, The Natural History Museum, The Cleveland Institute of Music where I went to school, University hospitals, and many more outstanding establishments, but today I’m after Art!

images (3)front of museum

The Cleveland Museum of Art is a wonderful place.  It was established in 1913.  It has had a number of additions, but my favorite part of the museum is its original, very classical building. This museum is internationally renowned for its substantial holdings of Asian and Egyptian art, but it also houses a diverse permanent collection of more than 43,000 works from all around the world.  And best of all it has remained historically true to the vision of its founders, keeping general admission free to the public. This is possible because the museum has a $600 million endowment.  It is one of the wealthiest museums in the world.

images (3)lagoon

The museum has  a lovely lagoon and garden out front.  This is how it looks in Winter, but it’s really gorgeous on a Summer’s day.

images (3)springtime laggoon

See?

images (3)atrium

But since it’s not Summer, today I appreciate the newly constructed Atrium with its glass roof which is now covered in snow.  Better the roof covered in snow than me.   The Atrium connects the new part of the museum to the old part.    It has beds of grass-like greenery at one end.

IMG_6207[1]

This greenery is most interesting.  It has a moss-like appearance, but I couldn’t identify exactly what the plant material was.  Also interesting is the way it grows in slanting hills and valleys.

IMG_6204[1]

The other end of the Atrium is a great place to sit and relax.  Here you might pause for some refreshment purchased at the cafe or read over the material you just bought at the gift shop which is a few steps away.

IMG_6240[1]

Ah, the gift shop!  I always enjoy browsing in this shop and today  I had some delightful conversations with museum employees. Ohioans are so friendly. Even when I go off on a Country Inn Day outing all by myself I always find nice people with whom to strike up a conversation.  When I’m here I always buy museum postcards and note cards to send my many pen friends. But the shop has so much more – books, jewelry, prints,  etcaetera etcaeterorum.

But how ’bout I show you a few things around the museum? Would you like to see the Armor Court?

IMG_6216[1]

Follow me through this grand room with its marble pillars.

IMG_6225[1]

And here we are.  I was told this armor collection, popular with the children, was put into the museum because Cleveland was a steel town way back when so armor seemed to be just the thing to get the museum off and running.

IMG_6212[1]

I happen to love portraiture.  Here we have the portrait of Elizabeth Beltzhoaver Mason .  It was painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1803. Stuart was an American artist who lived from 1755 to 1828.

IMG_6213[1]

And this is a portrait of Hugh Hope painted by the Scottish artist Henry Raeburn in 1810.  Raeburn lived from 1756 to 1823.  I love the clothing of these early times.  How ’bout I show you one more portrait though I enjoyed looking at lots and lots of them.

IMG_6223[1]

This painting is called “Portrait of a woman”  It is quite old.  Rembrandt van Rijn painted it in 1635 or earlier.  You may know Rembrandt was Dutch and he lived from 1606 to 1669.

I know I said just one more portrait, but I lied.  I have to show you another.  It is perhaps my favorite, or at least one of my favorites.

IMG_6214[1]

This is a self-portrait of a Belgiun named Joseph Paelivick.  He lived from 1781 to 1839.  He created this painting in 1812.  I love his pose. I love his clothing.  I love his expression.  I love portraiture.

But as I said earlier there is so very much to see here, 43,000 works.  Each time I visit the museum it’s all almost all new to me.  Of course I always enjoy revisiting my favorite things…

IMG_6211[2]

things like this great doorway from the Issac Gillet House.  It was created by the famous American artist, Jonathon Goldsmith back in 1821. Goldsmith lived from 1783 to 1847.  He and all the other artists I admire are not forgotten when I leave the museum.  I try to get to know these people by reading their biographies. Many become my “dead friends”.

Viewing exceptional art, viewing anything beautiful, becomes us.  Just walking through the elegant rooms of this museum is energizing and uplifting.  Come along.  Look at this!

IMG_6226[1]

And this!

IMG_6218[1]

And this!

IMG_6219[1]

a close up of a Louis XV Savonnerie carpet with royal arms made of wool and hemp somewhere around 1740.

IMG_6224[1]

And these Tiffany lamps dated 1898 to 1910 made by The Tiffany glass and decorating company of New York.


IMG_6209[1]

And when we pass a window don’t forget to look outside at the beautiful snow-covered garden below.

IMG_6236[1]

We pass gallery talks in progress.  This one is all about Monet and other Impressionists.  I stick around for a few minutes, but it’s time for a ‘sit down’.

IMG_6228[1]

I find an empty table in the Atrium, order a cappuccino and relax for a bit with a little letter writing.  I tell my friend in Rhode Island all the things I’ve been seeing.  Sharing doubles the joy you know. That’s why I enjoy sharing my Country Inn Days with you too.

I’m getting hungry. I could stay at the museum longer and have some food in the charming restaurant here.

IMG_6202[1]

This restaurant has a view of nature out its windows – beauty in art, beauty in nature, and culinary beauty to boot, but no, after my cappuccino I must get back to the Inn.  Once there the magic of Country Inn Days will transform me from Inn Guest into Inn Chef and I will create a masterpiece of my own.

It’s called Dinner

IMG_6246[1]
Tagliatelle with Red Wine Bolognese Sauce

The recipe

Ingredients:  1 onion, 1 small carrot, 1 celery stick, 2 cloves of garlic, 3 tbsp olive oil, 14oz minced beef, 1 and 1/2 cups red wine, 1 cup tomato puree, a small handful of oregano, parsley to garnish, 1 and 1/2 cup beef stock, 1 lb tagliatelle pasta, salt and pepper

Process:

1.  Chop vegetables finely. Heat oil, add vegetables and cook over low heat 5 to 7 minutes.

2.  Add the minced beef and cook 5 minutes.  Stir in wine and mix well.

3.  Cook 2 minutes.  Add tomato puree, herbs and stock.  Salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Cover pan and cook slowly for 30 minutes.

5.  Meanwhile cook pasta.

6.  Add a salad and a glass of wine.

7. Light a candle or two and enjoy!

IMG_6250[1]

I am now transformed once again from Inn Chef back into Inn Guest.  Ah, the magic of Country Inn Days!

And though this particular Country Inn Day held many other delights, I will leave you here, sharing more next time.  So until we meet again, be sure to exercise your own imagination and live richly experiencing much beauty.  Remember

Leave behind ordinary.  It’s not enough!

Do you enjoy the Art of Conversation?

IMG_4714[1]
A letter from Amy
I’m always thrilled to receive a letter from my pen friend Amy because with Amy I have the best letter conversations.  Have you had any interesting conversations lately?

It seems The Art of Conversation is suffering these days just like The Art of Letter Writing.  People tell me all the time how their friends prefer emailing or texting rather than sitting  together over a cup of coffee or tea for an in-person chat.  Sad, isn’t it?  I even  hear stories of  people sitting in the same room texting each other rather than speaking.   Yikes!  What’s happening here?

I personally love to meet friends in all sorts of settings and situations which foster good conversation.  I’m crazy about meeting friends in coffee houses, or sharing lunch or dinner in charming restaurants.  I also enjoy inviting people into my home for intimate dinner parties where the music is soft, the flowers are fragrant, the linen is crisp, the candles are glowing and food is shared along with good conversation.

IMG_4715[1]

But another wonderful way to enjoy rich conversation is through letter writing.  Of course one needs interesting, thoughtful correspondents to have interesting, thoughtful conversations,  but there are ways to find these pen friends.  Joining The Letter Exchange is the easiest approach, it’s how I met Amy.  I’ll share additional ways to make letter friends in my future posts.   With interesting letter friends all sorts of  fascinating topics will come up for discussion.  Almost every letter I receive sends my mind off on an intellectual journey of one sort or another.

Certain penfriends like Amy always give me lots to think about and consider. In one of Amy’s letters she was talking about Introverts and Extroverts.  Which are you?

I suppose it’s possible we can be a little of both in different situations.  What do you think?  Amy, bringing up this subject, got me thinking, and thinking is good for us.  It keeps our mind from falling into decay.  I got curious and had to investigate so I looked up definitions of these two psychological terms and here’s what I found in my Oxford American dictionary:

Introvert – A person who is concerned more with his own thoughts and feelings than with the people and things around him, a shy person.

Extrovert – a person more interested in the people and things around him than in his own thoughts and feelings, a lively sociable person.

Do agree with those definitions? I do not.

IMG_4716[1]

Amy had some of her own thoughts on the subject.  She wrote, “Introverts like to think deeply, quietly, and critically. They will speak aloud only once they have come to a conclusion.  Extroverts feel that talking helps them think through an issue. ”  Interesting view.  Do you agree?

Amy also offered another very keen observation and this one  I agree with completely, and I’ve shared her observation with many others – now with you.  Amy noticed extroverts seem to gain energy from the outside world whereas introverts gain energy when experiencing solitude.

I find psychology a very compelling topic. Where do you think you fall on the Introvert xxx Extrovert scale?  Well, Amy suggests we google the Meyers Briggs test (it’s free) offered by humanmetrics.com, for it will tell us where we fall on that I/E continuum.  You might want to do it.  After all, Socrates did say, “Know Thyself” and maybe this test will help with that.

IMG_4708[1]
The start of today’s letter

I mention all this because I would’ve never been wondering about introverts and extroverts if it hadn’t been for Amy and her letter.  Can you see how letter writing  gets us thinking … and how thinking is good for us?  Now, as I write my own letter today I have yet another interesting topic to discuss thanks to Amy.

 People ask me all the time what in the world I find to write about in my daily letters.  Where do I look for ideas?  Well, with lots of interesting friends and conversations, in-person conversations as well as letter conversations, plenty of subjects come up and all these subjects go into my letters and also keep my mind from wandering off to dreary matters.

So I hope you continue to meet lots of interesting people, making friends, and having interesting  in-person conversations as well as letter conversations.  The Art of Conversation allows us to share with our fellow men and sharing is an important part of being human.  So Keep your eyes open and welcoming to those you are attracted to because they could be  very important  to your personal growth, for as Helene Iswolski, the 20th century Russian writer and monk wrote,

 “I believe that we are always attracted to what we need most, an instinct leading us toward the persons who are to open new vistas in our lives and fill them with new knowledge.”

Amy is one of those persons who opens new vistas for me.

I hope you have lots of your own Amy’s.

IMG_4717[1]

Shall we have another outing?

IMG_3665[1]
Flying the friendly skies to California once again
I’m in the mood for a little culture.  How about you?  Let’s go to Pasadena, California and visit the Huntington Museum.  The Huntington Museum is a wonderful private non-profit collection-based research and educational institution founded in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington. Huntington was an exceptional businessman who built a financial empire that included railroad companies, utilities, and real estate holdings in Southern California.

Huntington_art_gallery_at_huntington_library_californiahuntington library

The Huntington complex is  huge.  It’s composed of a library containing rare books and manuscripts in the fields of British and American history and literature, but that’s not all.

IMG_4467[1]

It is also an art gallery composed of two separate buildings.  The Huntington Gallery, completed in 1911, originally was the Huntington’s residence.  You would love walking through its rooms of elegant furnishings.

IMG_3736[1]

Just look at this gorgeous dining room.  Though the Huntington family was not known to have entertained regularly, the dining room was nevertheless suitable for important functions.  One such occasion was a dinner for the crown prince and princess of Sweden, who visited the Huntington mansion in the early 1920’s.

IMG_3731[1]

Every room is exquisite.

IMG_3733[1]

I’m sure you would be most impressed with the building itself, but there’ s also the extensive art collection it contains.  When planning the residence Henry Huntington first envisioned a more modest retreat, but his uncle’s widow, Arabella Huntington, whom he would marry in 1913, was looking for a home on a grander scale.  Looking at one of the staircases in their home I think you would agree Arabella achieved her grand vision.

IMG_3737[1]

The floor to ceiling windows are lovely.  I had such windows in my last 1829 house.  I miss them.

IMG_3739[1]

The Huntington rooms are painted white and off- white with gold accents.  The look is very elegant and peaceful.  I might copy Huntington’s color palate should an addition ever materialize on my own home.

IMG_3743[1]

The 2,900-square-foot hall was added in 1934 for displaying the Huntington’s Grand Manner portraits.  Now called the Thornton Portrait Gallery, this addition followed a trend begun with the Wallace Collection in London and the Frick Collection in New York where grand homes were converted into museums.  (That’s my son Patrick standing in the gallery).

IMG_3745[1]

The loggia on the east side of the house represents a concession by the architect.  Archival documents show that Myron Hunt preferred a modest terrace on the east side; Henry Huntington envisioned a bolder, more spacious “outdoor living room.”  Huntington ultimately prevailed.

IMG_3747[1]

I think Huntington had the right idea, for a grand home like his truly needed a bold and spacious loggia rather than a small modest one.  Don’t you agree?

IMG_3749[1]Of course such a wonderful residence has wonderful vistas too.  It must have been fabulous to live in such a grand home, but all along Henry Huntington intended his home to function as a public gallery which is why less remarkable spaces such as bathrooms and the kitchen were not saved.  The Huntington opened to the public in 1928, a year after Henry’s death.

IMG_3741[1]
Sculpture of George Washington by Pierre-Jean David

The Huntington ‘s art collections occupy two separate buildings on the grounds.  A third structure, The MaryLou and George Boone Gallery hosts changing exhibitions.

If you visit the Huntington you will find the finest collections of European art in the nation and  The Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art bring together American art from the colonial period through the middle of the 20th century.

Besides all this the Huntington contains  an incredible Botanical Garden.  There is too much to see at one visit.  People are truly blessed who live in or near Pasadena California for they can and should return over and over again.

I hope you have enjoyed popping over to the Huntington with me today and I hope you manage to get there one day yourself.  In the meantime look for the beauty that’s all around you.

 The beauty we focus on becomes us.