The day after Halloween, the Christmas decorations went up in my neighborhood. Then right after Boxing Day, there were already Valentine’s Day candies in stores. As someone who really enjoys the holiday season, this early decoration overkill and immediate disappearance seems like both too much and too little. That’s why I appreciate some historical perspective on the season.
Just some locals in Williamsburg enjoying the holidays.
18th century Americans didn’t decorate until Christmas Day and then spent the next 12 days celebrating with parties, dancing, weddings, and lots of eating and drinking. To take in the classic (and not so classic) wreaths, greens, and holiday trimmings essential for the holiday spirit, I spent a few days in Jamestown and Williamsburg, two living history museums in Virginia.
One of the most amazing things about museums is that every visit can bring you a new discovery. I decided to spend Slow Art Day 2015 with the National Gallery of Art. Even though the NGA and I are old friends, I still found some amazing pieces, examined overlooked details and learned about a new artist. In the spirit of the Slow Art movement, let me show you just a piece of what I found when I decided to limit myself to looking at 5 paintings in the whole museum.
The National Gallery of Art Rotunda decorated for Spring
Art Historians are very good about categorizing art. Everything gets organized into bucket of a particular period or movement, but throughout Hungary, I just found the usual labels to be lacking. While Magyar art and design of the late 19th century draws from several sources, the result is so much more than simple Historicism repeating old designs. They created something unique and truly amazing. It just really resonated with me and so I had to give this style its own name: Exuberant Hungarian. I absolute fell for the Matthias Church in Budapest, with its wild but totally coherent decorative scheme. Take a look and tell me if you’ve ever seen anything like this before, and whether or not you think the “Exuberant Hungarian” moniker fits.
An incredible mix of color and pattern at the Matthias Church, Budapest.
I’ve been quiet for a little while because I’ve been in Hungary! The trip was filled with amazing food, beautiful architecture, and some of the most wonderful late 19th century art I’ve ever seen – like the elaborate Crypt of the Cathedral in Pécs below. Looking forward to sharing more soon!
The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme. This month we are discussing Art and Nature. Check out all the stories below!
One of my favorite William Morris designs, “Strawberry Thief,” 1883 (Photo: Victoria & Albert Museum)
Nature has inspired some of the most amazing art – from the representational, majestic landscapes of the Hudson River School to the stylized, curling flowers of the Art Nouveau. A painted landscape was one way to bring the environment back into our homes. The Arts & Crafts movement went one step further and sought to bring the beauty of nature inside and incorporate it into our furnishings and decorations. No one did more to turn parlors into romantic gardens like the British designer William Morris.