The French ambassador's residence in Washington, D.C. (photo by Amie Oliver)
This weekend we visited the residence of the French ambassador to the United States in Washington, D.C., to get things started for the upcoming Virginia Museum of the Fine Arts exhibition of the work of Auguste Rodin.
And we went into the procession of the 10th annual All The Saints Oregon Hill Halloween Party.
I did not wear the same suit.
The VMFA rolled us up Interstate 95 with a complement of its staffers, board members and interested invited parties. We got into town a little early — traffic is unpredictable — thus museum director Alex Nyerges got us into the Cosmos Club for some coffee and respite.
The library of the club, when at a different location, is where the founding members of the National Geographic Society chartered the organization.
The shelves in the Cosmos Club library include books by members, past and present (photo by Harry Kollatz Jr.)
Mark Twain played billiards in the room where we were received. I’m thinking that the image must date from his 1906 visit to Capitol Hill, where he addressed Congress on the issue of copyright. Though 71 by then, this is the first recorded instance of Twain wearing the white suit with which he’s most associated.
The library is warm, wood-paneled room in which Cosmos members — scientists, historians and politicians — are required to place their books.
We traveled from the Cosmos to the newly renovated residence (shown at top) of Gérard Artaud, French ambassador to the United States. The building has a decided Tudorbethan exterior, but a quite French interior that features antique and contemporary art. My traveling companion, Amie Oliver, and I managed to go onto the terrace — we were really reminded of the Branch House in Richmond — and partake of surprisingly fresh, cool autumnal air.
Inside the residence of Gérard Artaud, French ambassador to the United States (photo by Amie Oliver).
The ambassador was unfortunately called away — it’s an occupational hazard of diplomacy — and a representative eloquently spoke about the importance of Rodin in the role of art history, quoting him in what sounds as much like an inspiration as a warning (and very French): “The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.”
Nyerges spoke about the partnership with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, from which Rodin was then traveling and is now getting uncrated at the VMFA. There, the show received more than 200,000 visitors.
The other place this exhibition will be seen is in Boston.
VMFA director Alex Nyerges makes a point about the rarity of the Rodin exhibition (photo by Amie Oliver).
This unprecedented exhibition comes to us due to similar circumstances that brought Picasso to the VMFA. The Musée de Rodin in Paris is undergoing extensive renovations, so they put the show on the road.
So for a great deal less expense, you can see the master’s work right here in Richmond. All in all, this was a most wonderful outing and we all felt plenty cultured afterward.
Harry Kollatz Jr. with Alex Grath, president of the VMFA Fine Arts Council, and Alex Nyerges' wife, Jane Kathryn Gray (photo by Amie Oliver).
About the All The Saints Oregon Hill Halloween Parade: At a full decade in, this crazy wonderful mixture of volunteer organization, community participation, giant puppets and musicians is one of Richmond’s idiosyncratic events. As I heard WRIR announcer Dustin Richardson say, Richmond is an old and haunted place and knows how to do Halloween. The parade is the doings of Lily Lamberta and her All The Saints Theater Co., profiled here.
This year’s theme was “The Funeral March of Individual and Collective Depression.” This worked for me; and I hope from this rite forward into the new year that the city, as a whole, can shake the doldrums and get on with it, and blaze with its own fire of imagination and creativity.