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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Thing 17: The Matisse Cut Outs

This was supposed to be a post about going to the top of the Washington Monument. But it turns out that you need reservations and tickets ahead of time for that...so that post is going to come just a little later this year.

In the meantime, we were two girls in matching "I [heart] DC" t-shirts we'd bought three for $10 at a stand up the street from the Monument. We'd already asked a hapless GW student to take our picture with the Monument in the background, proudly showing off our matching shirts and $5 sunglasses. "So, where are you from?" he'd asked after taking our picture. "DC," we answered in unison. He looked at us with a cocked head, clearly confused, and we skipped off towards the Monument.

When our original plans to see the top of the Monument didn't pan out we decided that the day was simply too perfect and our matching outfits simply too funny to just turn around and go home. "We can see the Matisse Cut Outs," Good Friend Lisa suggested as an alternative. I had never heard of them. "When Matisse was starting to go blind, he couldn't paint anymore. So instead he made cutouts of colored paper and glued them to together." They are only available for viewing in the East Wing of the National Gallery at limited times, to protect them from sun damage, and GFL had never had a chance to go see them. The East Wing is on the other end of the Mall from the Monument, and we strolled arm in arm across the Mall enjoying the sunshine, watching the joggers and the puppies and the tourists and some woman in four inch stilettos totter up the the dirt path.

We dipped into the East Wing of the National Gallery and made our way up to the Tower, a single, trapezoidal room on the fifth floor where the cut outs are displayed. There are four of them housed here, and they are absolutely striking. First of all, they are huge. Bigger than you'd ever dream. For some perspective, here is GFL standing next to one:


Then there are the colors. The colors are bright and full of life, magenta and green and orange and blue and yellow -- and they all work together and come alive. One of the works, just a single cut out piece of paper, portrays all the life and movement of a woman carrying a basket of pomegranates down the road, turning to face the viewer and dropping three pomegranates as she does. And this is a solid color, cut out piece of paper. The man was a genius.

We marvelled at the cutouts and whispered a little bit about their color, composition and balance (GFL knows a lot about art). Then we wanted ice cream.

The gelato in the basement cafeteria of the National Gallery is wonderful. It's worth the trip over there alone. I ordered a cup of vanilla and chocolate, GFL ordered vanilla and blueberry. The flavors are rich and concentrated, and a wonderful treat on a sunny afternoon.

Side Note: Congratulations, Hoyas. I happened to be on M Street on Sunday Night when all Hell broke loose. I only captured 30 seconds of video, but this impromptu parade kept up for a solid twenty minutes.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Francoise, it turns out I told you several lies along the walk to the mall:

Lie #1 - It is the Statue of Freedom on top of the Capitol (http://www.aoc.gov/cc/art/freedom.cfm). I'm not going to repeat who I first said it was. Clearly, I'm an idiot.

Lie #2 - I still believe Les Betes de la Mer is Matisse's best cut out, but it is not off in a foreign country; it belongs to the National Gallery! Where was it? Why didn't we get to see it on Sunday? It is hiding.

Lie #3 - Okay, this is not a lie: gelato is better than icecream. Why? Well, according to wikipedia, it generally has less air whipped into it, so it is denser and more flavorful. It also tends to have less fat then regular American icecream. Yum...

:) Lisa

Claire said...

Are you Cherry Blossom Festivaling this weekend? It's my birthday and I am treating myself to flowers galore ;-) If you're going to be in the area lets try to meet up for a meal, a drink, an activity, a gelato, something...