Impressionism at the de Young

Daughter Kate, Gail, granddaughter Chloe at the exhibition

My favorite museum in the world is the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.  It’s a long trip, but worth it.  This summer, the museum has come to us, and it is simply not to be missed.

The French are remodeling the museum, and it will be closed for a year or two.  In a masterstroke of museum politics, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco have somehow managed to borrow much of the good stuff from Paris and put it on exhibition here.

There will be two shows at the de Young; the first of which has arrived.  Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay: The Birth of Impressionism is just what it says–about 100 great works from the very beginnings of the Impressionist movement.  Here’s what the museum says:

The de Young is proud to be the only museum in the world to present two consecutive special exhibitions from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The first exhibition, Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, debuts at the de Young on May 22 and runs through September 6, 2010.

Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay presents nearly 100 magnificent works by the famous masters who called France their home during the mid- to late-19th century and from whose midst arose one of the most original and recognizable of all artistic styles, Impressionism. The exhibition begins with paintings by the great academic artist Bouguereau and the arch-Realist Courbet, and includes American expatriate Whistler’sArrangement in Gray and Black, known to many as “Whistler’s Mother.” Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Sisley are showcased with works dating from the 1860s through 1880s, along with a selection of Degas’ paintings that depict images of the ballet, the racetrack, and life in the Belle Époque.

Notable works in this exhibition include:

  • The Fife Player by Edouard Manet (1866)
  • Racehorses Before the Stands by Edgar Degas (1866–1868)
  • Family Reunion by Frédéric Bazille (1867)
  • The Magpie by Claude Monet (1868)
  • The Cradle by Berthe Morisot (1872)
  • The Dancing Lesson by Edgar Degas (1873–1876)
  • The Floor Scrapers by Gustave Caillebotte (1875)
  • The Swing by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1876)
  • Red Roofs, Corner of the Village, Winter Effect by Camille Pissarro (1877)
  • Saint-Lazare Station by Claude Monet (1877)
  • Rue Montorgueil, Paris. Festival of June 30, 1878 by Claude Monet (1878)
  • Snow at Louveciennes by Alfred Sisley (1878)
  • L’Estaque by Paul Cézanne (1878–1879)
  • Portraits at the Stock Exchange by Edgar Degas (1878–1879)
  • The Birth of Venus by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1879)

When, not if, you go, be sure to rent the audio tour.  It is particularly well done, and provides you with a tremendous amount of  information and insight–like taking a private tour with the curator.  Yes, you look like a dork with the silly headphones and bright orange neck strap, but that’s what all the cool people are wearing this summer.

As with most special exhibitions, you have to buy a special ticket, which includes a specific entry time.  I saw at Costco that they had discounted tickets which included the audio tour–I think you buy it and then go online to arrange the entry time.  The museum closes at 5:15 most nights; we had the last tickets of the day, 4:00 pm, and had plenty of time to see everything as there were very few other people in the gallery.

The Moss Room, at the Academy of Sciences

What’s a trip into the city without dinner?  We wanted to go out after the Impressionists, so  I looked on Opentable and found the miracle answer: The Moss Room.

There is now a very good restaurant in the lower level of the Academy of Sciences, just across the Concourse from the de Young, a 2 minute walk. The entrance is around the right side of the building, then you go down the stairs

They aren’t very busy on Saturday nights, especially if you are eating at the children’s hour of 5:30, a drawback of the museum closing at 5:15.

The Moss Room is very modern, very hip.  Too hip, sometimes, since everything has to be local and sustainable–and that means they don’t carry things like Baileys Irish Cream.   The good news is that the food is inventive and delicious, even if their iced tea is “chrysanthemum”, they were at least willing to make a pot of Earl Grey and ice it down for me.

Four of us started with the corn/lobster soup, which was just fabulous.  Being different, I had to have the duck liver terrine, which was also splendid.  Son-in-law Brad declared the scallops (cooked inside squash blossom) the best he’d ever eaten.  I had the lamb shoulder with lentils–the lamb was pretty standard lamb, but the lentils in Moroccan spice were spectacular.

I noticed that the New York steak came with “beer battered bone marrow”.  Didn’t want the steak; had to have the marrow.  So I ordered a side, which seemed to confuse the  heck out of the waitress but the kitchen worked it out.  We got four tiny squares of melting marrow encased in a very crisp batter.  Marrow is death food, to be sure, but it’s great.  The soaked me a puny $4.00 for the side order.

Granddaughter Chloe had to have the Valhrona Chocolate dessert, so I kept her company by having the Summer Fruit Trifle.  It isn’t often that a dessert is so large and rich I can’t finish it, but even with Gail’s help there was leftover trifle.

The service was first rate, the food was excellent, the location is perfect.  If you go to the de Young mid-day, the Moss Room is open for lunch, too.

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One thought on “Impressionism at the de Young

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review « Totally, completely, absolutely, unequivocally unofficial blog

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