Friday, April 8, 2011

Reggie Out & About: "Rooms With A View" Opening at the Metropolitan Museum

The other evening Reggie and Boy had what I consider to be the type of New York evening that I fantasized about having one day, back when I was a young and callow lad, before I moved to this glittering city more than thirty years ago.  It included a generous mix of cocktails, a gallery opening at the city's most magnificent museum, dining in an impossibly smart restaurant, and meeting new, interesting, and noteworthy people.  And it all took place in the most beautiful and fashionable part of the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Reggie was livin' the dream that night.  Well, at least his dream at this stage of his life . . .

Sitting Room, ca. 1820, by Johann Erdmann Hummel
Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin

Okay, Hipsters, you can have your Meat Packing Districts, your Nolitas, your Chelseas, and your Williamsburgs.  Reggie truffled his way through those gritty parts of town when he was younger, too.  Now he is quite happy to be a boring, middle-aged investment banker living and frollicking in what you might consider to be the stuffy and dull old UES.  And he's quite happy if you should feel that way, too, since that means there's more room for him and his kind right where he wants to be.

But I digress . . .

The Family Circle, ca. 1830, by Emilius Bærentzen
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

Our evening began with attending an opening cocktail party for a new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we were the fortunate guests of one of the museum's curators.  It was for Rooms With a View: The Open Window in the 19th Century, a charming show of early nineteenth-century European paintings and drawings of interiors with views through windows.  Most were painted by German, Scandinavian, and Baltic artists during the neo-classical and Biedermeier periods, and many are on loan from museums and collections in central Europe.

View of Dresden, 1824, by Karl Gottfried Traugott Faber
Staatliche Kunstsammlunger
Dresden, Galerie Neue Meister

The paintings are intimately scaled and precisely and skillfully executed, and quite lovely to look at.  They are a fascinating record of interiors and furnishings of early nineteenth-century continental Europe, including many of the artists' own studios or homes, and are well worth studying at length.  This is not a show that one should breeze through—it merits close and careful observation.  I plan on returning to see it again soon.  I have already spent several hours reading its well-written, highly informative, and profusely illustrated catalogue so that I will be better informed when I return to see the paintings again.  The curator of the show, Sabine Rewald of the Metropolitan, did a superb job.  I highly recommend that you make plans to see the show, Dear Reader, as it is a not-to-be-missed, absolute gem.

Interior from Amaliegade with the Artist's Brothers, ca. 1829
by Wilhelm Bendz
The Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen

Afterwards, in need of more sustenance than visual stimulation, vodka, and cheese balls, we headed over to Swifty's, where Robert Caravaggi was kind enough to give us a table on the spur of the moment and without a reservation.  The place was packed!  As one often does at Swifty's, during dinner we fell into a pleasant conversation with a couple sitting at the next table to ours (the tables are very close together at the restaurant, so one is rather cheek-to-jowel with one's neighbors).  They were quite jolly and chatty, and we had a delightful time speaking with them.

Interior with Young Woman Tracing a Flower, ca. 1820-1822
by Louise-Adéone Drolling
Saint Louis Art Museum

Looking around the room, I noticed that David Patrick Columbia of New York Social Diary was also there, so I stopped by his table and said hello to him and his guest.  On our way out we passed James Andrew of What Is James Wearing?, whose blog I am a regular reader of and who is a sometime commenter on mine.  We stopped and introduced ourselves to him and his dining companion, and they couldn't have been nicer.

We had a lovely evening!

View from the Artist's Studio in the Alservorstadt
toward Dernbach
, 1836, by Jakob Alt
Albertina, Vienna

And to top it off, the next morning we were invited to a cocktail party by the couple we sat next to at dinner at Swifty's, and with whom we exchanged contact information at the end of the evening.  We were delighted that they invited us to their party and that we were able to attend it, and we had an absolutely marvelous time at it.

One does so adore living the life in New York . . .

The exhibition's catalogue

Rooms With A View: The Open Window in the 19th Century
April 5 through July 4
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10028

All images taken from the show's catalogue, except for the final photograph, by Boy Fenwick


  1. The little paintings are delightful. Of course, the ones I like most are those depicting the ladies at their needlework and spinning.
    xox Camilla

  2. What a perfectly wonderfully orchestrated evening!! A lovely mix of dining, culture and convivial conversation - what could be better! Can't wait to see the exhibit!

  3. I have learned so much about historic interiors by examining drawings and paintings such as these. How fortunate to have such remarkable decorative arts records. It is possible to have similar night on the town experiences in other parts of the country, too; it is just more difficult to unexpectedly meet like-minded people.

  4. Take me with you Reggie dear. Life is less, um, scintillating out here in the suburbs. On the other hand, the gardening is good. I'm preparing to plant tomatoes. Only time will tell the degree to which they compensate.

  5. Ah! A walk across the Park is in order! What a grand evening you had!

  6. The artists of that era are a delight. I went to that of the Danish artist Christian Kobke, when I was last in Scotland, and posted about it. I'm very keen on the detail he and they (those in your exhibition) employed.

  7. Sounds like a fabulous night out on the town.

  8. Especially love the two views with outdoor views! Yes, I thank you, now I have an exhibit to feed on when I come in !

  9. Reggie, that sounds like the perfect NY evening of art, food and interesting conversation.

  10. I so want to see this that it inspired yesterday's self portrait!

  11. Utterly exquisite, breathtaking show and thank Boy for enabling us to enlarge the photos twice. I read the Dilettante's post re the wood carving master first this morning, then joined your readers when suddenly I spied that squirrel sitting on the arm of a chair in "Interior With Young Woman..." and thought, Ah how wonderful to have a wooden squirrel carved as part of the chair like that! Ah, the joys of aging.

  12. Félicitations on living one's dream, and the images are outstanding.

  13. Reg, I love this exhibit so much that I've been 3 times! The catalogue sits on my beside table and its images have become the last I look at before I fall asleep. I window into the world of another's world through their window.

  14. Great theme for an exhibition. My favourite picture of a room with a view would be Gustave Caillebotte's "Young man at his window". Spring must be upon you at Dalington house. I hope your garden is putting on a suitably charming show for you.

  15. Mad I am always for interior paintings. Oh that I had time to run to NY this spring.

  16. Dear Mr. Darling,

    What a fascinating subject matter to base an entire exhibition on. I absolutely adore the decoration of early 19th century homes, and could effortlessly spend hours at this particular exhibition. Alas, it is
    at the opposite end of the country, sigh. The Wilhelm Bendz painting particularly speaks to me. Those colors, the arrangement of furniture, the figures pondering on whatever is worthy of being pondered. It is all too much. I must at least purchase the catalog for a small flavor of the whole.

  17. What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
    The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.


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